Oracle Earnings Offer a Peek Into Its Future

Oracle headquarters, Redwood Shores, Calif.
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Oracle headquarters, Redwood Shores, Calif.

This quarter for Oracle, it's all about the future.

Oracle is set to report on Wednesday what is traditionally one of the slower quarters—Wall Street is looking for 66 cents in EPS from $9.38 billion in revenue. But the May quarter is traditionally its strongest, so guidance is particularly pivotal.

Three of the more important elements of the report: Oracle's tone about the rest of the year in new software licenses; growth in new areas like hardware and the cloud; and any color on whether they're still hiring salespeople at a rapid clip—they've added 3,000 in the past 18 months.

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On software license growth: That's Oracle's bread and butter; last quarter software license revenues were $4.3 billion, roughly half of revenue.

New software license and cloud revenues were up 18 percent. For next quarter to turn out as expected, this area of the business will have to pull its weight—and Europe will play a big part in that happening.

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In hardware and cloud: CEO Larry Ellison said last quarter that this quarter hardware will be "turning the corner"—which should mean the revenue declines should stop with margins stable—and in the May quarter hardware revenue should start growing, with margins up, too.

Finally, sales: Oracle has been hiring like mad, telling its applications story to customers in an effort to lure business away from competitors. If the sales machine is still going, that suggests Oracle isn't just sounding bullish, it's making bullish plans.