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  Software maker Oracle 2Q earnings climb 21 percent to match analyst estimates  

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 18, 2006 (AP Worldstream) -- Oracle Corp.'s quarterly profit surged 21 percent as the business software maker reaped the latest returns from a two-year shopping spree that has eliminated several major rivals and shored up its product line.


The Redwood Shores-based company said Monday it earned $967 million (EUR 738.45 million), or 18 cents per share, for the three months ended in November. That compared with net income of $798 million (EUR 609.39 million), or 15 cents per share, at the same time last year.


Revenue for Oracle's fiscal second quarter totaled $4.16 billion (EUR 3.18 billion), a 26 percent increase from $3.29 billion (EUR 2.51 billion) at the same time last year.


If not for expenses to cover the cost of its acquisitions and employee stock options, Oracle said it would have earned 22 cents per share. That matched the average estimate among analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.


Investors appeared to be betting Oracle would top Wall Street's forecasts. The company's shares rose 23 cents to close at $17.91 (EUR 13.68) on the Nasdaq Stock Market before the quarterly results were released, then retreated by 33 cents in extended trading. Oracle's stock price has climbed by nearly 50 percent this year, driven by robust earnings growth.


The latest performance marked the fourth consecutive quarter in which Oracle's profit has increased by at least 20 percent, delivering on a management promise when the company began snapping up other software makers in a flurry of deals that have cost more than $20 billion (EUR 15.27 billion) so far.


Larry Ellison, Oracle's flamboyant chief executive, has pledged only to pursue deals that will help the company boost its earnings by 20 percent annually.


"So far, so good," Safra Catz, Oracle's chief financial officer, said during a Monday conference call with reporters. "We are trying to make sure we stay focused and don't take any short cuts."


Oracle has been hitting its financial targets by maintaining its leadership in the database software market while boosting its sales of business applications products that help companies, government agencies and schools automate a wide range of administrative tasks.


The company has mounted a more serious challenge to Germany-based SAP in the applications market primarily through recent acquisitions that included a $11.1 billion (EUR 8.48 billion) takeover of PeopleSoft Inc. and a $6.1 billion (EUR 4.66 billion) purchase of Siebel Systems Inc.


The deals wiped out two of Oracle's biggest competitors while also filling in significant holes in the company's product line.

Applications software has now become Oracle's primary growth engine, partly because the demand for new database software has trickled off in the past few years.


Oracle's sales of application licenses totaled $340 million (EUR 259.64 million) in the latest quarter, a 28 percent increase from the same time last year. This yardstick is particularly important to investors because the sale of new software licenses generate a steady stream of revenue for the future maintenance and upgrades of the applications.


Sales of Oracle's database and so-called "middleware" software rose by 9 percent to $867 million (EUR 662 million) during the quarter.



Copyright (C) 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

12/18/2006 17:26 - The Associated Press  
  Verizon to build undersea optical system  

NEW YORK, Dec 19, 2006 (AFX) -- Verizon Business, a unit of telecommunications company Verizon Communications Inc., said Monday it signed a construction and maintenance agreement to work with China Telecom and China Netcom to build an undersea optical cable system linking mainland U.S. and China.


The total cost of the system will be more than $500 million, to be split evenly between consortium members. The system is expected to be complete in 2008.


The system, to be called Trans-Pacific Express, will be made with fiber-optic cable and support capacity equal to 62 million phone calls, more than 60 times the capacity of existing cable directly linking China and the U.S, according to Verizon.


Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



By Staff Reporter

(C) 2006 XFN, Inc. All rights reserved.

12/18/2006 12:08 - XFN, Inc.  
  CenturyTel to acquire Madison River  

MONROE, La., Dec 18, 2006 (AFX via COMTEX) -- Communications company CenturyTel Inc., said Monday it would acquire Madison River Communications Corp. for combined cash and debt of $830 million.


The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2007.


CenturyTel expects to save $17 million annually once the acquisition is fully integrated.


Madison River, based in Mebane, N.C., offers telecommunications services in rural areas. It generated $189 million in revenue during the year ended Sept. 30, and $99 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.


Shares of CenturyTel advanced $1.15, or 2.7 percent, to $43.98 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, after setting a 52-week high of $44.11. The stock has ranged between $43.69 and $32.54 over the past year.


Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



By Staff Reporter

12/18/2006 11:56 - XFN, Inc.  
  Loral to buy Telesat Canada for $2.8B  

NEW YORK, Dec 18, 2006 (AFX) -- Loral Space Communications Inc. said Monday that it agreed to acquire Canadian satellite communications company Telesat Canada from BCE Inc. for about $2.8 billion.


Under the deal, Loral and Canadian partner the Public Sector Pension Investment Board will buy the company through a joint venture for about $2.8 billion plus the assumption of roughly $148 million of debt.


Following the deal, Loral will hold a 64 percent stake in the company, and PSP Investments will own a 36 percent interest.


Loral will transfer the fixed satellite services and network services assets of Loral Skynet to a new Canadian company, to be known as Telesat, based in Ottawa formed by Loral and PSP Investments.


This new company will have a combined fleet of eleven satellites and four additional satellites to be launched over the next three years, Loral said.


Telesat will have combined trailing 12 months revenue for the period ended September 30, 2006 of about $568 million and $4.9 billion of backlog. Its management team will be drawn from both Telesat and Loral Skynet, and Telesat Chief Executive Daniel Goldberg will continue in that position.


The boards of PSP Investments, Loral and BCE have each approved the transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, including approvals of the relevant Canadian and U.S. government authorities.


The deal is expected to close by mid-2007.


Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



By Staff Reporter

12/18/2006 07:50 - XFN, Inc.  
  Scientists move closer to 'lab on a chip'  

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Dec 18, 2006 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they've created a technology that might simplify construction of Micro Total Analysis Systems -- so-called labs on a chip.


Micro Total Analysis Systems, or Micro-TASs, can contain entire medical and scientific laboratories shrunk to the size of computer chips.


Edgar Meyhofer and colleagues at the University of Michigan report that microtubules, envisioned as key components of micro-TASs, can be steered in any direction with externally applied electric fields.


Microtubules -- microscopic tube-shaped weaves of proteins -- serve as pathways for delivering neurotransmitters to the tips of nerve cells, positioning chromosomes for cell division and transporting molecules.


On micro-TASs, microtubules would be used as molecular tracks in the chip for filtration, dilution, separation, reactions, detection and other steps in an analysis. Such a steering technology might provide an easier way of positioning microtubules in the desired orientation on chips, thus reducing the amount of microfabrication typically needed to manufacture guide channels, the researchers said.


The research is scheduled for publication in the Dec. 13 issue of the journal Nano Letters. 

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

12/18/2006 12:24 - The Associated Press  

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