Those who do not like Oracle (Nasdaq:ORCL) and its often-outspoken CEO Larry Ellison should probably look away now. This software giant continues to show impressive growth and rebut skepticism that competition, both large and small, is going to eat away at the many and varied businesses of this database, middleware, application and hardware hybrid.
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A Good Present For Shareholders
Oracle delivered a strong fiscal second quarter almost across the board. Total revenue jumped 47% to $8.65 billion - handily beating even the highest published estimate on the Street. If there was a black mark, it would be in hardware systems where growth was up 3% sequentially.
Although Oracle still runs an exceptionally profitable business, there was some backsliding this quarter. GAAP operating margin fell almost five points, due in part to a different profitability profile for the hardware business and also some erosion from sales, marketing and R&D. Nevertheless, operating income grew 27% for the quarter and the change in margin structure was not a surprise, as the company surpassed analyst estimates at the bottom line.
Oracle Being Oracle
It is hard to imagine an Oracle presentation without a little bombast from Larry Ellison, and he delivered. During the call, he blasted Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) for offering servers that are slow, expensive, and feature no additional value in terms of onboard software. At the same time, he went out of his way to show respect and praise for IBM (NYSE:IBM). Frankly, it is hard to see what Ellison is on about here - is he trying to play for misdirection (and Oracle is actually targeting IBM)? Is he sincerely irritated at HP for the incident over Mark Hurd? Or, is he trying to deflect attention from Oracle's own tepid sequential performance and promising to target HP as a vulnerable source of market share?
Whatever the case may be, there is a lot to like about Oracle. The company is very well-positioned with deep offerings in a lot of important areas. As cloud computing becomes more and more significant, Oracle is going to play a major role (in competition with the likes of VMWare (NYSE:VMW) and Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM), certainly). Likewise, Oracle is not going to be left out or left behind in the data management game or in other applications. In fact, Oracle announced an update to OpenOffice just the other day - a stab at a long-time honeypot for Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) and perhaps a warning to Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) that they will not win without a fight.
The Bottom Line
Oracle may not be a Buffett-style value stock, but it is an interesting value proposition all the same. While investors have fallen over themselves getting into names like VMWare, Salesforce.com, Red Hat (NYSE:RHT) and Informatica (Nasdaq:INFA), Oracle has seen in its valuation multiple contract over the years. That is in spite of the fact that Oracle is arguably the strongest it has been in some time. It may be true that Oracle will be hard-pressed to match some of these up-and-comers in middleware and cloud computing, but that does not mean that Oracle is about to suffer the "how do we grow today?" conundrum of Microsoft.
All in all, then, investors may want to take a close look at Oracle shares - the company may not have all the sizzle today, but there seems to be more than enough value here to be worth some long-term performance. (For related reading, see Is Cloud Computing An Investable Trend?)
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