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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 18:39 GMT
Oracle warning prompts share slump
Oracle's Larry Ellison
CEO Larry Ellison forecast tech firms' prospects had 'stablilised'
Shares in database vendor Oracle have slumped 14% after the company warned its profits were not going to meet expectations.

Oracle's warning came on Friday, after US markets had closed.

Monday was therefore investor's first opportunity to react to the news that slow sales in Asia meant profits for the three months from December to February would disappoint.

They took the chance to sell up. At one point Oracle shares, which had closed at $15.99 on Friday, fell as low as $12.88 early in the New York session, before recovering to $13.67 by the close of trade.

But Oracle's peers shrugged off the warning, remaining buoyant as the general tech revival continued.

The Nasdaq Composite index ended the day 57 points higher at 1,859, having dipped briefly into negative territory early in the day.

Missed estimates

In its warning on Friday, Oracle said it would be reporting earnings per share of 9 cents, against expectations of 10 cents.

At fault was the Asian operation, which normally accounts for 14% of Oracle's worldwide sales.

"Based on preliminary estimates, it appears our third quarter year-over-year growth rates for software sales and operating income were about the same as those for the second quarter," said Jeff Henley, the company's chief financial officer.

The second quarter, from September to November, saw sales slide more than a quarter from the same period a year earlier.

In other words, observers said, Oracle has tripped over a fairly low bar.

Only in January, Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison was telling the world that the worst was over for the high-tech industry.

"Things have already stabilised," Mr Ellison told the BBC, insisting Oracle appeared to have been the "overwhelming winner" in its key database markets.

See also:

01 Mar 02 | Business
The rich get poorer
18 Jan 02 | Business
Global PC sales slump
18 Jan 02 | Business
'Worst over' for tech sector
14 Dec 01 | Business
Oracle profits fall
10 Feb 00 | Microsoft
Larry Ellison: A profile
10 Feb 00 | Microsoft
Oracle: A brief history
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