This article originally appeared on Real Money on Dec. 15, 2016.
At first glance, Oracle's (ORCL) - Get Reportearnings and guidance look moderately good. However, a closer look at the numbers makes them appear (at least in the eyes of this observer) moderately disappointing, and this particularly holds for the company's heavily-trumpeted cloud software business.
Either way, Oracle's story remains mostly unchanged from the way it looked before earnings: The company is squeezing out a minimal amount of organic growth as cloud gains are offset by declines in traditional hardware and software sales, and is eager to use acquisitions to improve its top-line performance.
Oracle reported fiscal second-quarter adjusted revenue of $9.07 billion (up 1% annually) and adjusted EPS of $0.61. The former was in-line with consensus analyst estimates, while the latter beat by a penny, despite a $0.02 hit from forex headwinds.
And on its earnings call, Oracle guided for 3% to 5% Q3 constant currency (CC) revenue growth, along with EPS of $0.61 to $0.64 in CC. The company added forex was expected to have at least a 1% impact on revenue growth, and at least a $0.01 impact on EPS. In actual dollars, consensus is for 2.5% revenue growth and EPS of $0.64.
A decent if bland set of numbers, right? Not so fast.
Oracle's Q2 sales benefited slightly from the early-November closing of its $9.3 billion purchase of midmarket cloud business app vendor NetSuite, and its Q3 numbers will benefit more since NetSuite will be on the books for the full quarter. While some analysts had revised their Oracle estimates to account for NetSuite, not all had done so.
Markets were quick to account for this. Oracle fell 2.2% in after-hours trading and in early morning trading on Friday, they were down 3.8% to $39.30. Shares are up 7% on the year.
With the help of NetSuite, 131% cloud human capital management (HCM) app revenue growth -- possibly a problem for rival Workday (WDAY) - Get Report -- and strong bookings in prior quarters, Oracle's cloud app (SaaS) and cloud app platform (PaaS) revenue totaled $912 million, up 87% in dollars (up from 77% last quarter) and 89% in CC. 82% to 86% SaaS/PaaS revenue growth is expected in Q3, and 80% growth for the whole of fiscal 2017 (ends in May 2017).
However, Oracle's SaaS/PaaS gross billings aren't quite as strong, growing 39% in Q2 to $792 million. That's a noticeable slowdown from Q1's 49% growth. And cloud bookings annualized recurring revenue (ARR) grew 30%, less than Q1's 42%. When it comes to deal activity rather than reported revenue, Oracle's organic cloud growth, though still substantial, is clearly slowing.
Also: Oracle's cloud infrastructure (IaaS) business, which remains far smaller than those of market leaders, saw revenue grow just 6% to $175 million. And the company forecast its IaaS gross margin, which fell to 37% in Q2, would drop over the next few quarters due to new investments. Oracle recommended analysts assume a "trough" GM of 20%, while insisting it would eventually reach at least 40%.
Somewhere, an exec at Amazon Web Services (Q3 revenue of $3.2 billion and operating profit of $861 million) might be chuckling.
Meanwhile, Oracle's on-premise software license revenue fell a steep 20% (worse than Q1's 11%) to $1.35 billion, falling short of a consensus estimate of $1.44 billion. License update and product support revenue, which is fueled by past license sales, grew 2% (same as last quarter) to $4.78 billion. Other services revenue fell 2% to $844 million.
Hardware revenue remains soft, dropping 10% (slightly less than Q1's 12%) to $1.01 billion. On the call, co-CEO Safra Catz said Oracle is "proactively evaluating our expense infrastructure needed to support the on-premise hardware business in light of ongoing declines and the arrival of IaaS alternatives.
Financially, Oracle is still executing well. Operating expenses fell slightly to $6 billion, helping EPS beat estimates and allowing operating margin to grow by a point to 42%. The company has $58 billion in cash on its balance sheet (much of it offshore) to go with $54 billion in debt.
There really isn't anything to panic over in Oracle's numbers, but there are a few figures to be concerned about. Unless on-premise declines narrow or organic cloud bookings growth picks up again, the company could be hard-pressed to hit its target for double-digit fiscal 2018 EPS growth.