Adobe, Oracle earnings hint at business recovery

Solid reports from the software makers show companies are starting to spend more.

By Kim Peterson Sep 21, 2011 12:58PM
Are companies finally starting to loosen their purse strings?

That's the takeaway after strong earnings reports this week from Oracle (ORCL) and Adobe (ADBE). The companies specialize in business software, and both said sales and profit are doing better than analysts expected.

Investors cheered the news, sending shares of both companies up Wednesday. Oracle's share price spiked nearly 8% to $30.52, and Adobe saw shares rise more than 3% to $25.49.

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Still, the results weren't enough to confirm a bona fide tech recovery. What we're starting to see is an environment in which software sales are creeping up but hardware sales remain weak.

The PC market is still struggling in the U.S. and Western Europe, mainly because consumers have embraced Apple's (AAPL) iPad instead of traditional computers. Forecasting firm Gartner says it expects spending by businesses and especially consumers to tighten as the economic outlook remains dark.

Expectations have been extremely low, and that may be why Oracle and Adobe were able to beat them. "There were concerns that the environment was difficult and demand trends were starting to deteriorate," a Pacific Crest Securities analyst that covers Adobe told Bloomberg. "The guidance looks pretty strong."

Adobe makes Photoshop and other graphic design programs. It also sells customer management and online marketing systems for businesses.

It gave a sales forecast of $1.08 billion to $1.13 billion for the fourth quarter. Analysts were expecting $1.07 billion. The company estimated profit at 57 cents to 64 cents a share, while analysts were expecting 58 cents.

For the quarter ended Sept. 2, sales rose 2.3% to $1.01 billion. That was a little lower than the $1.03 billion analysts were looking for. But profit topped estimates at $195.1 million, or 39 cents a share, from $230.1 million, or 44 cents, a year ago. After excluding certain costs, earnings were 55 cents, higher than the 54 cents analysts expected.

Oracle also beat analysts' projections after seeing new software license sales rise 16%. It makes powerful computer systems that help companies manage databases, customers, the supply chain and other operations.

Profit rose 36% to $1.84 billion, or 36 cents a share, from $1.35 billion, or 27 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts were looking for 35 cents a share. Sales rose 12% to $8.37 billion, which is about what analysts thought would happen.
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