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Larry Ellison, confounding critics who though he had NC-itis and was neglecting the main business, was able to announce a record first quarter for Oracle last night. Revenue increased 28 per cent, and net income 30 per cent compared with the year-earlier quarter, excluding one-time charges for the acquisition of Treasury Services Corp and Navio Communications. Oracle's database business grew 25 per cent and the applications and services business grew 37 per cent, confirming Oracle as the leading database vendor ($7.5 billion in the last four quarters), and number two to Microsoft in applications ($2 billion in the last four quarters). Geographically, the Americas were up 37 per cent, EMEA up 33 per cent, and Asia Pacific down 14 per cent compared with the year-ago quarter. Ellison said of the database business: "I have only IBM and Microsoft to compete with, since Sybase and Informix are having a hard time sustaining their business." He also noted that, contrary to financial analysts' prognostications, the database business has not yet matured. Licences in the database business increased 13 per cent, the third such quarterly increase in a row. Database services grew 33 per cent. The applications business was flat, but application services showed an increase of 51 per cent. With earnings of 20 cents/share, financial analysts polled by First Call were mistaken in their average projection of 15 cents/share. An excuse offered by one analyst was that Oracle had achieved better cost control, but a more convincing explanation is that financial analysts do not understand the database business. These results confirm that Oracle has managed a transition to a being a more focussed organisation, with a reorganised sales force. It has been an unstable year for its shares, which have drifted between $17.75 and $40, and rose to $23 5/8 in after-hours trading last night. ®

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