UPDATE: Oracle Net Falls On Strong Dollar, Declares Dividend
By John Kell and Jessica Hodgson Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES SAN FRANCISCO -(Dow Jones)- Oracle Corp.'s (ORCL) fiscal third-quarter net income eased 0.8% as the strong dollar dragged on earnings,UGG Ultimate Bind but the company announced it would pay its first-ever dividend, and beat earnings expectations. Shares of Oracle rose sharply, up 7.4% to $17 in after-hours trading. The Redwood City, Calif.-based database and software giant's earnings underscored that its broad portfolio of products and its steady maintenance revenue stream - fees paid by customers for support and product upgrades - are buffering the company against the worst impacts of the recession. But it issued weak guidance for its fourth quarter, citing the continued negative impact of the strong dollar. While Oracle's positive results were seen as encouraging, analysts cautioned that they don't necessarily mean that the tech sector is emerging from the difficult economic environment. "Expectations were very low and there would concerns that there would be a significant pullback on new license sales," Brent Thill, an analyst with Citigroup Investment Research, said. In fact, new license sales exceeded expectations. "But Oracle has a unique advantageAir Insurgent through its reach and is a very disciplined company, so it's hard to draw too many conclusions about the rest of the sector, " Thill said. For the quarter ended Feb. 28, Oracle reported net income of $1.33 billion, or 26 cents a share, down from $1.34 billion, or 26 cents a share, a year earlier. The stronger dollar reduced earnings by 5 cents a share in the latest quarter. Excluding stock-based compensation, restructuring and acquisition-related costs, earnings rose 16% to 35 cents a share. Assuming fixed-exchange rates, the figure would have been 40 cents. Revenue increased 1.9% to $5.45 billion, but would have risen 11% if currency rates were constant. Software revenue rose 5% and services revenue fell 8%. At fixed-exchange rates, the figures rose 14% and 2%, respectively. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected per-share earnings of 32 cents on revenue of $5.42 billion. For the fourth quarter, Oracle expects earnings, excluding stock-based compensation, restructuring and acquisition costs, to be between 49 cents and 53 cents. The strong dollar is expected to have a 12% negative impact on total revenues in the quarter, President Safra Catz said. New license revenue, a key measure of software growth, fell 6%, but rose 3% assuming exchange rates held steady. Oracle said its cash flow totaled $8 billion over the past year and it will pay a 5-cent quarterly dividend, with the first payment coming in May, the first in the company's history. Oracle has completed a handful of Nike Shox Explodineacquisitions over the past year but some have warned the company must keep buying more to maintain its earnings growth. Throughout the past year, the company has focused mostly on buying smaller firms, and last month bought mValent Inc. a tiny maker of software that helps to configure other software.