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The growth in Oracle’s applications business, the area where it competes most directly with German rival SAP, slowed notably in recent months, according to quarterly figures released on Tuesday.

However, stronger sales elsewhere helped the US software company top market forecasts for both revenues and earnings in the fourth and most important quarter of its fiscal year.

Oracle, which has used a string of acquisitions to mount a challenge to SAP, reported new licence revenue of $726m from its applications arm, up 13 per cent from a year ago, helped in part by the recent purchase of Hyperion. Given the much higher growth rate earlier in its fiscal year, the latest application results are likely to come as a disappointment to Oracle investors, according to Bruce Richardson, analyst at AMR Research.

Larry Ellison, chief executive, attributed the slowdown to “a very, very tough comparison” with the company’s performance in North America the year before. “It’s simply a matter of spectacular growth a year ago,” he said. Commenting on Oracle’s recent spate of acquisitions, Mr Ellison added: “I expect the pace to continue.”

Safra Catz, president and chief financial officer, said Oracle’s forecast of revenue growth of between 18-21 per cent in the coming quarter, typically the slowest in Oracle’s fiscal year, showed its confidence in a new product cycle that was driving growth in its core database business. “We are really going on all cylinders,” she added.

Overall, Oracle reported revenues of $5.8bn, up 20 per cent from a year before, though reported growth would have been a more moderate 16 per cent without foreign currency benefits. Net income rose 23 per cent to $1.6bn as Oracle boosted its margins.

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