Ahead of the Bell: Oracle's 4Q earnings coming out

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Oracle's end-of-quarter report should give investors a better handle on whether a disappointing performance earlier this year by the business software maker was a hiccup, or a symptom of problems that are more deep-seated.

The Redwood Shores, Calif. company disillusioned much of Wall Street in the third quarter, it's most recent, and the final report of its fiscal year, which will be issued after the market closes Thursday, is going to be pored over closely by investors.

Sales of new software licenses and online subscriptions turned out to be a big problem, raising doubts about the company's ability to grow amid a new breed of rivals that operate in the cloud.

Investors drove the company's stock down 10 percent the day after the numbers came out, and shares have yet to fully recover. Oracle's stock is still down 5 percent from its most recent earnings report, even as the Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 5 percent during the same stretch.

Oracle's management blamed poor execution by its sales staff, and not a significant decline in demand for what it is selling.

It is particularly important that Oracle show that the problem has been quarantined eliminated as the three months that make up the fourth quarter are traditionally the company's busiest.

Analysts polled by FactSet are predicting Oracle Corp. will earn 87 cents per share, excluding charges for past acquisitions and other costs. That would be a 6 percent increase from the same time last year. Revenue is expected to edge up by 2 percent to $11.1 billion.

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