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Oracle tops earnings forecasts

The tech bellwether, grieving from its own losses in the terrorist attack, quietly releases its first-quarter results.

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© St. Petersburg Times, published September 14, 2001


The tech bellwether, grieving from its own losses in the terrorist attack, quietly releases its first-quarter results.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Software giant Oracle Corp. reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings Thursday but tabled discussion of the results and management's outlook until the stock market reopens next week.

The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company earned $510.6-million, or 9 cents per share, for its fiscal first quarter ended Aug. 31, up 2 percent from $500.7-million, or 8 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. The consensus estimate among analysts polled by Thomson Financial/First Call was 8 cents per share.

With its software sales eroding, Oracle's revenue in the quarter dipped 1 percent to $2.24-billion.

As one of the world's largest technology companies, Oracle's earnings announcements are usually closely followed as analysts and investors diagnose the industry's health. With the stock market closed for its longest stretch since the "bank holiday" of 1933, Oracle realized that its results had become an afterthought and released its earnings without elaboration.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said he decided to postpone his scheduled earnings conference call until Monday to give analysts and investors more time to recover from the attack that destroyed the World Trade Center, one of the country's financial hubs.

Tuesday's attacks also hit Oracle.

Todd Beamer of Cranbury, N.J., an account manager for Oracle, died on the hijacked United Airlines flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. In a memo to employees Thursday, Ellison hailed Beamer as one of the passengers believed to have confronted the hijackers, forcing the plane to crash before reaching an unknown target believed to be in Washington, D.C.

Seven other Oracle employees in or near the World Trade Center on Tuesday are missing.

In his memo, Ellison said six of the missing workers are consultants that were working on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center's South Tower, the second building hit by a plane Tuesday. A seventh Oracle employee with training as an emergency medical technician ran into the World Trade Center after an airplane smashed into one of the towers, Ellison said.

Ellison's decision to reschedule the conference call represented a last-minute change of heart. As Thursday began, Ellison still intended to preside over the conference call, signaling his determination to conduct business as usual in the face of this week's terrorism.

"We feel it's very important to continue to move forward as a sign of our determination not to be bowed by despicable acts of terrorism," Ellison said in a statement distributed to reporters Thursday.

Oracle's sparse earnings summary contained a tidbit likely to rattle investors increasingly worried about the company's growth prospect. The company reported software sales of $731-million, down 9 percent from the $807-million registered at the same time last year.

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