Ellison swings at Salesforce as Oracle's growth sputters

A mixed Q3 earnings report was buoyed by strong cloud revenues

Oracle expects to generate more than US$1 billion in new SaaS and PaaS business in 2015, putting it toe-to-toe in the cloud market with Salesforce.com, Oracle's top executives said Tuesday.

"It's going to be close, but you won't have to wait very long to find out who's going to win this," Oracle Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison told financial analysts during the company's quarterly earnings call.

Oracle's software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) revenue grew by 30 percent to US$372 million in the quarter ended Feb. 28, the third of Oracle's fiscal year. Adjusting for strong currency fluctuations, the growth would have been 34 percent, Oracle said.

Its business overall did less well. Total revenue for the quarter came in at $9.3 billion, unchanged from last year and below what analysts had been expecting. Earnings on an adjusted basis were $0.68 per share, in line with the forecast. Revenue from new software licenses fell 7 percent.

But the company focused on its cloud business, where results were more positive.

"Overall, our cloud results were much better than expected," said CEO Safra Katz. "We're clearly growing faster than Salesforce."

Measured in annual recurring revenue, Oracle added nearly US$200 million of new SaaS and PaaS business in the quarter, said Mark Hurd, who shares the CEO title with Katz. In the current quarter, it expects to sell more than $300 million.

"We have a real chance to sell more SaaS and PaaS new business this coming quarter than any other cloud services provider," Hurd said. "I think our hyper-growth in the cloud comes as a big surprise to a lot of people."

Oracle's claims probably came as a surprise to Salesforce.com, which might dispute its assertion that it will lead the market this year. Salesforce.com declined to comment on the Oracle executives' comments, but pointed to its own financial results reported last month, showing an increase in overall revenue of 26 percent year over year, to US$1.44 billion.

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