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Oracle expects slow sales of software to continue

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SAN FRANCISCO — High-tech bellwether Oracle Corp. warned that its depressed software sales probably will plunge even more in the aftermath of last week's terrorist attacks.

In a conference call Monday to discuss quarterly results released last week, Oracle executives estimated sales of new software licenses during the three months ending in November will decline by about 15 percent from the same time last year. In the previous two quarters, Oracle's new software sales dropped by 10 percent and 8 percent.

"We don't think things are recovering, and in light of last week's events, we think things will get slightly worse," Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said.

Before the terrorist attacks, management had been resigned to a software sales decline in the 8 percent to 10 percent range, Ellison said.

Despite the sales erosion, Ellison reassured industry analysts the company's profit will remain about the same as last year. Redwood Shores-based Oracle earned 11 cents per share in last year's quarter ending in November.

In its fiscal first quarter ended Aug. 31, Oracle managed to beat analysts' consensus estimate of 8 cents per share by a penny. The earnings of $510.6 million, or 9 cents per share, represented a 2 percent improvement from a profit of $500.7 million, or 8 cents per share, at the same time last year. Total first-quarter revenue, including consulting services, totaled $2.24 billion, down 1 percent from last year.

Oracle eked out the profit gains primarily by slashing expenses. The company's operating expenses in the most recent quarter declined by $107.6 million, or 7 percent, from the same time last year, according to a financial statement released Monday