Oracle Earnings Pop 20% on New Software License Sales

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Oracle's (ORCL) fiscal first-quarter profit increased 20% from a year earlier as the world's No. 2 software company to Microsoft (MSFT) generated higher revenue from a jump in software-license sales.

Oracle performed better than analysts expected largely because of new license sales and gains from its recent acquisition of Sun Microsystems earlier this year for about $7.4 billion. Minus some one-time charges, Oracle earned 42 cents per share in the quarter, better than the expected 37 cents a share on $7.27 billion in revenue, according to analysts surveyed in a Thomson-Reuters poll.

"Our software-licensing growth was outstanding," said Safra Catz, co-president of Oracle, on a conference call with analysts today. "We have a lot of company-specific momentum in each line of business."

The company expects to boost earnings further as it further integrates Sun, whose gross margins have increased by 10 percentage points since Oracle bought Sun, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said on the call today, adding that Oracle expects to double the size of Sun's business. Catz said fiscal second-quarter year-over-year revenue growth will be as much as 47%.

"We believe Oracle is finally getting some credit for value creation from Sun, although we believe upside to estimates this year can drive this further," Citigroup wrote in a Sept. 14 note to clients. The investment bank has a "buy" rating on the stock with a $28 price target.

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Oracle gained attention earlier this month when it hired former Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) CEO Mark Hurd to be a co-president along with Catz. HP has in turn sued Hurd, alleging that he risks violating confidentiality agreements because Oracle became a competitor in the server industry when it acquired Sun. "There's really no one else in the market with the software and hardware assets that can match Oracle," said Hurd, who didn't mention HP on the call.

Hurd stepped down as the HP chief last month after he was accused of sexual harassment by a contractor (the charge was later dropped) and a resulting internal investigation found that he made unauthorized payments to the contractor.

Oracle shares advanced 4.3% to $26.45 at about 6:20 p.m. Eastern time in after-hours trading today.

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