Oracle fails to see the writing on the wall

Oracle has blamed its sales force for its rubbish miss in third-quarter software sales and warned that its ailing hardware business will lose more ground this quarter.

It is not clear why Oracle should be suffering. Its sales teams have been boosted over recent months and it should be doing much better.

The storage maker had consulted its tarot cards and come up with a one to 11 percent rise in new software licenses and internet-based subscriptions in the May quarter. Either that, or Larry Ellison might need to be thrown into the volcano of his pacific island.

It is difficult to escape the news that Oracle’s February quarter revenue miss was its worst since the November quarter of 2011.

CFO Safra Catz told Information Week that the sales force had lost its sense of urgency.

“Since we’ve been adding literally thousands of new sales reps around the world, the problem was largely sales execution, especially with the new reps as they ran out of runway in Q3,” Catz said.

Wall Street is not so certain. It blames tepid spending by governments and corporations in an uncertain global environment. But Catz said that is not true, it is just lazy sales teams spending too much time dozing.

There are other figures within Oracle’s bottom line which are not that great. Its hardware division, for example, is still pretty poor, and the outfit is facing greater competition in cloud or web-based software from the likes of IBM, SAP and Salesforce.

Revenue from Oracle’s hardware division fell to $671 million from $869 million in the year-ago quarter. The division’s revenue has fallen every quarter since Oracle bought it.

Other analysts think that Oracle’s May-quarter software sales projection was in line with expectations and that is because some of the deals that slipped in the third quarter were probably signed in the fourth.

Oracle posted a two percent drop in new software sales and web-based software subscriptions to $2.3 billion in its fiscal third quarter. Investors scrutinise new software sales because they generate high margin, long-term maintenance contracts and are an important barometer of future profit.

Overall, Oracle’s revenue dipped one percent to $9 billion, just missing the $9.382 billion analysts had expected on average.