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Oracle beats expectations as sales, earnings dip

The business software giant says it's pleased with performance on both the top and bottom lines, especially in light of the troubled global economy.

Oracle announced on Tuesday lower fourth-quarter sales and earnings but was encouraged as results beat expectations.

For the fourth quarter of its fiscal year, which ended May 31, the database giant earned $1.9 billion, or 38 cents a share, versus $2 billion, or 39 cents, a year earlier. Sales fell 5 percent to $6.9 billion, compared with $7.2 billion a year ago. However, Wall Street had been predicting revenue of only $6.47 billion.

Oracle noted in its report that results were hurt by the lower value of foreign currencies versus the U.S. dollar. Without that impact, fourth-quarter income would have grown 9 percent to 42 cents a share.

The company was also pleased with its non-GAAP results, which discount certain nonrecurring costs.

"We executed substantially better than we expected on both the top and bottom line for the quarter," Oracle CFO Jeff Epstein said in a statement. "We grew Q4 non-GAAP operating margins by a faster than expected 240 basis points to over 51 percent. That helped us generate $7.7 billion in free cash flow for fiscal 2009."

For the full year, earnings per share rose 3 percent over the previous year to $1.09, while total net income inched up 1 percent to $5.5 billion. Revenue in 2009 hit $23 billion versus $22 billion for the preceding year.

"Adjusted for the substantial movement in the U.S. dollar exchange rate this fiscal year, which is beyond our control, we grew non-GAAP earnings per share by 19 percent for the year," Oracle President Safra Catz said in a statement. "That's an amazing achievement given what's been happening in the global economy over the past twelve months."

Results were boosted by heavy use of Oracle's business applications over those of archrival SAP, according to Oracle.

The quarter was a momentous one for Oracle, which in April announced its intended buyout of Sun Microsystems, due to be voted on by shareholders July 16.