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Oracle Misses Badly, Spooks Everybody

Stock Price Buckles as Investors Fear Harbinger of the Future

Oracle zigged when it was expected to zag Tuesday and came in with a nasty fiscal Q2 miss that caused its stock price to buckle close to 10% after-hours for fear the results are a harbinger of the broad-based tech slowdown everybody's afraid of given the newspaper headlines, especially out of Europe.

Oracle in its conference call never once said it was, claiming instead that Q2 was a one-off event and that "short of a global meltdown" Q3 "won't be a repeat."

Obviously there was a struggle to close deals in Q2, which ended with the hateful November. Ellison, Catz and Hurd are three pretty slick articles, still it's hard to believe that the company didn't already have the management controls in place to monitor last-minute approvals but that's what Catz said. Approvals came through - lurchingly and apparently with more, higher-up signatures than they used to need - and Oracle has had to figure out how to deal with that wrinkle going forward. Apparently any deals missed are expected to close this quarter.

Both its Q2 revenue and earnings were short of consensus. It reported earning 54 cents a share, up 6%, on revenues of $8.79 billion, up 2% year-over-year, when the Street thought it would do 57 cents on $9.23 billion. GAAP income was up 17% to $2.2 billion or 43 cents a share. Unfortunately Oracle had guided to revenue of $8.99 billion-$9.34 billion.

It said new licenses were up 2% to $2 billion when it had guided to an increase of 6%-16% and updates and product support was up 9% to $4 billion.

It's supposedly not seeing a slowdown in Europe. It even said the US public sector was pretty good. CRM is supposed to be up close to 20%. Most of everything else, however, looks off.

Hardware was down 14% to $953 million - when it was supposed to be flat to down 5% - and that's despite what Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said was accelerated sales of engineered systems.

According to him "Exadata growth was well over 100% compared to last year, and Exalogic grew more than 100% on a sequential basis. We shipped our first SPARC SuperCluster in Q2 and expect to begin deliveries of our Exalytics system and the Oracle Big Data Appliance in Q3."

Evidently the product transition from the T3 to T4 Sparc chip was a hold-up since it requires a brand new system and people aren't going to buy outdated equipment so late in the cycle. In addition, Oracle could only deliver a few SuperClusters since they only became available at the end of the quarter. But Hurd maintains that Oracle pipeline is as full as it's ever been, with Exalogic ramping faster than the Exadata machine, something he's said before.

Larry said 200 Exadata/logic machines were sold in Q2 and prophesized that 300 would be sold this quarter and 400 in Q4. By then they'll be a billion-dollar business that he said will double next fiscal year. Bernstein ace analyst Toni Sacconaghi noticed that wasn't quite as many as previously forecast and Ellison had to admit he was right. Oracle might not triple its installed base, maybe it'll only be up 2.5x, Ellison said, but "It's still spectacular."

Oracle's GAAP operating margin was 35%; its non-GAAP margin was 45%, which it's pleased enough with, and it claims it should return to pre-Sun margins soon.

Oracle's workforce was up 1,700 salespeople in the first half.

Co-president Mark Hurd said in a statement, "We believe that this increase in our field organization combined with innovative new products like Fusion Cloud ERP and Cloud CRM will enable solid organic growth in the second half of this year."

Oracle exceeded estimates in the four previous quarters and it's going to have tough compare this quarter because last year was sensational. It's forecasting total revenues will be up 3%-7% this quarter. That would work out to somewhere between $9 billion and $9.42 billion. It said new software licenses would be flat to up 10% and hardware down 5% to 15%. Adjusted earning should be 56 cents-59 cents. The Street had it down for 58 cents on $9.46 billion.

To console investors Oracle said it could buy back another $5 billion worth of stock at some point. It's got $31 billion in the bank.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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