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Oracle posts earnings of 81 cents a share, in line with expectations

Oracle reported quarterly earnings met analysts' expectations on Thursday, while sales were better than expected as the company booked more cloud software-as-a-service customers and expanded margins.

The enterprise technology company posted fiscal fourth-quarter earnings per share of 81 cents, compared with 78 cents a share in the year-earlier period. Revenue for the quarter came in at $10.59 billion, against the comparable year-ago figure of $10.71 billion.

Analysts expected Oracle to report earnings of 81 cents per share on revenue of $10.47 billion, according to a Thomson Reuters consensus estimate.

Shares rose about 2 percent in extended trading after the news, as the company told investors it was a "force to be reckoned with" in the cloud.

Oracle added more than 1,600 new software-as-a-service (SaaS) customers and more than 2,000 new platform-as-a-service (PaaS) customers in the quarter, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd said in a statement.

Mark Hurd, CEO of Oracle
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Mark Hurd, CEO of Oracle

Bookings sped up as the company implemented an "accelerated buying experience," using what CEO Safra Catz called a "click to accept" model. "Our customers could then start using our services faster," Catz told investors on a conference call. "Superb" growth in Asia-Pacific, "solid" demand in Europe and generous compensation packages were also highlighted as drivers during the call.

"You sell cloud at Oracle you make more money than anyone in the industry," Hurd said.

Oracle reported $690 million of Cloud SaaS and PaaS revenue, higher than the $661.4 million of cloud SaaS expected in a StreetAccount consensus estimate. Software licenses revenue hit $2.77 billion, narrowly missing the $2.8 billion expected by StreetAccount.

Considered a bellwether for the business technology sector, Oracle is transitioning to the cloud at a time when newer companies such as Salesforce.com, which adopted a cloud-and-software focused model early on, have come to dominate certain markets. (Salesforce.com shares were nearly flat after Oracle's earnings release.)

Oracle, once known for its server systems, has sought to outpace other software companies in sectors like supply chain and manufacturing, chairman Larry Ellison said last quarter. Indeed, Ellison also announced Thursday an ambitious goal for the next few years: to be the first cloud company to reach $10 billion in SaaS and PaaS revenue.

"We expect that the SaaS and PaaS hyper-growth we experienced in FY16 will continue on for the next few years," Ellison said in a statement.

The technology company also declared a 15-cents-per-share dividend and raised its guidance for SaaS and PaaS revenue for the first fiscal quarter.

Despite a challenging IT-spending environment and a whistleblower lawsuit, Drexel Hamilton analyst Brian White estimates that Oracle now has the wind at its back when it comes to the cloud. Indeed, Oracle has acquired several cloud-related companies over the past couple of months that give the company the "benefits of a rapidly growing cloud portfolio," White wrote in a research note released prior to Thursday's earnings announcement.

In response to the whistleblower suit, Catz said Oracle's cloud accounting was "100 percent accurate and if anything, slightly conservative," while she noted the company was at "the complete end of the beginning" of its cloud transition.

Going into the market close, Oracle's shares were down 5.5 percent so far this quarter, after the company walked away without the $9 billion in damages requested from a major lawsuit with Google.