Oracle's Vision Paying Off (ORCL)

By Wayne Pinsent | September 28, 2007 AAA

The technology sector has been performing well, even during the recent market turmoil.

Now, with the markets being picked up by the Fed's rate cut, this sector could really have some room to run and Oracle (Nasdaq:ORCL), a manufacturer and seller of business applications, could be one of the best in the sector right now.

The Oracle Omen
Oracle boosted confidence in the tech sector recently when it releasing earnings that showed considerable strength and growth in the underlying business. Starting three years ago, Oracle went on a tear, buying up more than 30 small competitors to try to eat the lunch of SAP AG (NYSE:SAP). (For greater insight, check out The Advantages Of Investing In Aggresive Companies.)

While Oracle is still trailing SAP in revenues from business application sales, the moves from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison have been paying off in a big way. The company has been consistently producing great numbers, and this recent quarter saw sales grow at the fastest rate in seven years (since the dotcom boom drove demand in 2000).

The benefits of these consolidations have surpassed most expectations. For its fiscal first quarter, Oracle earned $840 million, or $0.16 per share, up 25% year over year.

Another positive from the quarter is that the company reduced its debt by $1.36 billion to bring their total debt balance to $6.24 billion. This looks nice along side Oracle's $6.2 billion in cash on its balance sheet. The company also bought back $530 million of the stock last quarter, and the company's cash position gives the impression that there is room for more. Oracle has a plethora of options to deploy cash, and with how effectively management has been running the ship, I think there is solid room for more growth.

The Whole Picture
Not everything can be good, right? Well, there were some negative points in the quarter. For one, operating expenses were higher than anticipated. Another problem is that about 4% of the revenue growth was from currency valuations. Also, some of the growth was due to Hyperion and Agile, businesses that Oracle acquired in March and May, respectively. I don't think these are major concerns.

The growth in earnings, despite higher operating expenses, signals to me that there is just more opportunity to improve the bottom line. To the latter concern, I think Oracle has been impressive in management of its acquisitions to grow the company.

The Bottom Line
Tech looks attractive, especially now that a weight has been lifted off the market. With money freeing up (or at least unfreezing) in the economy, Oracle should be able to benefit from demand from companies investing in new technologies. The company's management continues to spur growth. I would keep my eyes on other names in technology as well, companies including Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) and Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN), which have also been providing nice returns.

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