I Know You Are, But What Am I?

Oracle predicts earnings shortfall, claims its not their fault

March 5, 2001 -- While their assertion that the weak economy has had a negative effect on their business is no doubt a valid one, there was a certain amount of what can only be called corporate whining during a conference call with Oracle honchos Jeff Henley and Larry Ellison on Thursday.

Henley started out the disclaimers when he remarked that Oracle had felt good about their 3Q earnings as late as last Friday. Those good feelings were squashed, however, when the company suffered from a number of deals being deferred.  Henley explained, a lot of people, just because of the economy we believe, delayed decisions.

Chief Larry Ellison then weighed in, and his comments were along the same lines. In a nutshell, it's not their fault. As approvals went to senior management among our customers for purchases of software  both our application software and our database software  senior managers were deferring expenses and pushing out IT expenditures in light of the uncertain U.S. economy. He went on to say the company had posted application growth of 50 percent, although he expected maybe even as much as 100 percent growth of our applications business in a normal economy. Exactly what he considered a normal economy remained undefined.

What makes Ellison and company's protests hard to swallow is his self-assured manner of presenting his company. Not that there's anything wrong with confidence, in oneself and one's company. But Ellison might have overdosed on his Stuart Smalley pills. Between his Our software's good, don't mess with it speech at Appsworld, and the fact that he offers a Dark Side of i2 kit on Oracle's Web site, you get the feeling that the corporate braintrust feels like they're invincible. Following up those types of statements with a finger-pointing session makes you feel like you've followed a boastful guide into the Outback, only to find that he's ditched you to see if he can get on as a roadie with Survivor.

Ellison managed to get in a good spin session, in spite of all the sackcloth-and-ashes talk. He said, As long as the economy doesn't get worse, we think that we're going to be just fine. We think we're better-equipped to deal with this slowdown than almost any other company in the world because we have diligently used our e-business software to improve efficiency, improve productivity, and improve our margins. That's great. Just be willing to take at least some responsibility every now and then.