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Oracle trims sales, marketing, and back office staff?

Profits first

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Oracle has apparently joined the ranks of tech vendors cutting staff but is still - relatively speaking - sitting pretty.

The world's largest supplier of databases has reportedly cut between three and four per cent of its sales and marketing "expense" and two per cent of general and administrative expenses.

As of May 2008 - when Oracle released its last 10k statement on the subject - head count totaled 84,233 full-time staff, with 19,465 in sales and marketing and 8,304 running the back office. That could mean 778 from sales and marketing and 166 from the back-office team are getting chopped.

Oracle declined to comment.

If the report is true, the cuts seem geared towards helping maintain Oracle's profitability, according to Thomas Weisel Partners analyst Tim Klasell who announced the losses. The analyst wrote the move was "well planned and not a hasty reaction to an unplanned event."

The cuts follow a second-quarter that - while inline with estimates - saw business from sales of new copies of Oracle software fall three per cent. That quarter was reported on December 18.

They also follow three years' of rampant corporate and technology acquisition, which has seen Oracle's head count double. Full-time staff numbered 41,658 in 2004 - the year before Oracle's M&A juggernaut started rolling, with a series of deals that saw PeopleSoft, BEA Systems, Siebel, and a host of others succumb.

During that time, the number of back-office staff has doubled - from 4,705 to 8,304. The company, though, has kept an extremely tight rein on sales and marketing: numbers have gone in the opposite direction - down to 19,465 last year from 24,760 four years ago.

Oracle is famed for having employees re-interview for positions and for cutting lose "underperformers", so these latest cuts could be considered part of the process.

Also, for some perspective, Oracle's cuts are minor in terms of sheer numbers and proportion of workforce compared to some. Erstwhile partner Sun Microsystems is cutting 6,000, almost a fifth of its employees, tools rival Borland Software is cutting 15 per cent, and database competitor IBM is reported to be sharpening the axe on 16,000, or four per cent. ®

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