- Associated Press - Thursday, September 20, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Oracle’s earnings matched analyst estimates in the latest quarter, but a revenue decline signaled the business software maker is having a tougher time closing deals.

The fiscal first-quarter results announced Thursday are the latest indication that companies and government agencies are clamping down on technology spending amid mounting uncertainty about the economy.

Oracle Corp. earned $2.03 billion, or 41 cents, per share for the three-month stretch ending in August. That’s an 11 percent increase from income of $1.84 billion, or 36 cents per share, at the same time last year.

Excluding certain accounting items, the Redwood City, Calif., company says it earned 53 cents per share, mirroring analyst projections.

Revenue dipped 2 percent from last year to $8.18 billion. That was more than $200 million below analyst forecasts.

Like many U.S. companies that depend on overseas customers for a lot of their sales, Oracle was hurt by weakening currencies in Europe and other parts of the world. The currency fluctuations translated into fewer dollars during the latest quarter compared to a year ago.

If exchange rates had remained unchanged, Oracle said its earnings per share would have been higher by 3 cents and its revenue would have edged up by 3 percent instead of dropping.

Concerns surrounding weakening economies in Europe and the unwieldy debts being shouldered by some European countries have pressured the euro, which is used by 17 European countries.

Those worries also are weighing on decision makers in corporate and government technology departments, making them more reluctant to invest in new products and features until they get a better handle on the economy’s direction.

The manufacturers of personal computers, processors and other hardware have been hurt the most by this trend, but Oracle’s performance may raise questions about whether business software makers are starting to feel the pinch, too.

Oracle continued to struggle in its recent foray into hardware, a move punctuated by the company’s $7.3 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2010. Oracle’s total hardware revenue plunged 19 percent from a year ago.

Database and applications software remains Oracle’s financial backbone.

In a key indicator of the company’s health, Oracle’s sales of new software licenses and subscriptions rose 5 percent from the same time last year. This category is watched closely by investors because new licenses provide the foundation for future upgrades and maintenance, creating a steady stream of recurring revenue.

The pace of Oracle’s software sales decelerated from the previous quarter, During the three months ending in May, Oracle’s new software licenses increased by 7 percent from last year.

Oracle shares added 2 cents in extended trading to $32.28 after the numbers came out. In regular trading, they had closed down 52 cents to $32.26.

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