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Oracle's Flat Revenue Misses Forecast; Shares Dive Despite $12 Billion Buyback

Oracle stumbled again.

The enterprise software leader late Thursday reported fiscal Q4 sales that missed analyst views, as hardware revenue continued to fall amid weak growth in new software license revenue. The company reported a rare sales and earnings miss in the previous quarter.

Oracle (ORCL)'s guidance for the current quarter was basically in line, but shares were down 8% in after-hours trading, after it released its results on a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its biggest one-day decline in 19 months. Oracle shares fell 2.6% in the regular session.

The No. 1 database maker and, along with rival SAP (SAP), the No. 1 maker of business software apps, is fighting through a period of slowing and declining growth as it transitions some of its business to the cloud-based software-as-a-service model, where users pay on a monthly basis as needed. This is counter to its longtime on-premise model, where users pay large upfront fees for annual licenses.

It's a tough transition at a time of a sluggish macro economy and with its hardware business continuing to fall. Oracle bought server maker Sun Microsystems in January 2010.

"There is lots of opportunity for Oracle, but in a period of rapid change and a tough macro they have some challenges in terms of near-term revenue drivers," said Michael Turits, an analyst for Raymond James.

The company reported earnings per share minus items of 87 cents for the quarter ended May 31, up 6% from the year-earlier period. Revenue rose a fraction at $10.95 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected 87 cents and $11.12 billion.

Economy, Not Products

"It was clearly an economic issue and not a product issue," company CEO Larry Ellison said on a conference call with analysts, of the revenue weakness.

Safra Catz, co-president and CFO, told analysts weak markets included Brazil, Australia and several Asian countries.

The company also doubled its quarterly dividend to 12 cents and added $12 billion to the amount of money the board has authorized for share buybacks.

For the current quarter, Oracle expects EPS ex items of 56-59 cents on a 3% to 6% rise in revenue. Analysts were expecting 58 cents and a 4.4% sales increase, to $8.57 billion.

Oracle reported a 1% increase in new software license and cloud subscription revenue, rebounding from a 2% decline in that metric the previous quarter. Q4 hardware systems products revenue fell 13%, but that was better than the 23% dip in Q3.

Total software revenue rose 4%, same as in Q3.

The soft software growth shows the company's challenges in migrating from its software license model to the cloud, says Steve Koenig, an analyst for Wedbush Securities. "They're making progress in the cloud, but the large majority of their business is still very much on-premise (licenses)," he said.

In the company's earnings press release, co-President Mark Hurd said Oracle added more than 500 SaaS customers in Q4. He said the firm is at an annual SaaS revenue run rate of more than $1 billion.

Ellison again expressed confidence the turnaround in the company's hardware business would begin in the current quarter. He said hardware "just might" see revenue growth this quarter.

"Given the trajectory in the hardware business, we don't see any reason to believe that yet," analyst Koenig said.

Total hardware systems revenue fell 9% in Q4 vs. 16% in Q3.