The Redwood City, Calif., business software company is not expected to reveal any revenue weakness for the quarter ended Nov. 30. And while the stock is not recession-proof, portfolio managers and analysts view Oracle as a solid bet against a market downturn in 2008.
Analysts are expecting earnings per share of 27 cents on a top line of $5.039 billion, according to Thomson Financial. From a one-year low of $15.97 on March 1, the stock has risen steadily, spiking on Oct. 11 to $23 on news that
the company was moving to acquire a competitor. At its current price, Oracle trades at about 17 times forward earnings.
Broadpoint Capital analyst Mark Murphy is looking for the company to exceed the consensus revenue and EPS estimates. He expects the company to post revenue of $5.061 billion. He attributes his outlook to Oracle's acquisition strategy "and its large base of recurring maintenance revenue," he wrote in a note Tuesday. Broadpoint makes a market in Oracle.
Goldman Sachs analyst Sarah Friar expects to see an upside beyond the top-line growth estimates of 19%, she wrote in a note Sunday. "We are mindful of the macro backdrop and expect the company to guide in the 15% to 20%
growth range for next quarter," she added. Oracle is an investment banking client of Goldman Sachs.
Oracle stock is "defensive, reliable and pretty consistent," said Jane Snorek, portfolio manager at First American Funds. She expects the company's growth for the quarter to outpace consensus estimates of 20% by two to three percentage points. Oracle is overweight in the funds' portfolios, as are most large-cap stocks currently.
Oracle is "sitting in a really good spot right now. People don't want small-caps; they want large cap tech," Snorek said. The software developer is not overly exposed to the financial services sector, she added.
Oracle would be vulnerable to an economic downturn only if the mortgage crisis extends for a full year, Snorek said. Businesses continue to need its software to run operations, and the installation process is lengthy, extending Oracle's revenue recognition cycle.
Mark Demos, portfolio manager with Fifth Third Asset Management's large-cap growth strategy, takes a slightly more cautious view. He said Oracle will benefit largely from a strong revenue pipeline going into the quarter but likely will face a harder time closing some deals. "If the economy is weakening, there's going to be an impact," Demos said. "But if you put Oracle against its peers, I'd rather go with Oracle." Fifth Third holds Oracle shares.
Demos likes Oracle's substantial recurring revenue in maintenance and subscriptions. "In this environment, that's great. The maintenance revenue as a percentage of the total is going up" and driving higher margins to boot, Demos added.
"This is a company that has a lot more diversified operations than most people realize, not only in products, but in geography as well," Demos said. Less than half of Oracle's revenue is from the domestic market.
Traditionally a database software company, Oracle moved big into application software with numerous acquisitions since 2005, most notably PeopleSoft, Siebel and Hyperion. It also has developed its own middleware, where it competes with
( BEAS), which rejected Oracle's buyout offer in October.
Oracle has "done a great job" proving it has the know-how to integrate its acquisitions and hang onto acquired market share, according to Snorek. In the past, the company took the approach that customers had to accept what it offered "because we're Oracle," she said. But lately the company has shifted tactics. "They've been all over their customers to make sure they stay for the long term."
Oracle is taking market share from its two primary competitors in separate product lines:
in applications and
in database software, Snorek said. "SAP's business has slowed dramatically."
"Oracle owns the high-end and middle-range database market," she added.
And in middleware, both IBM and Oracle are lapping up BEA's market share, Snorek said. "They'll both drain it off."
"Oracle may get BEA yet," Demos said. "That may come up in the next couple of quarters." And he expects Oracle to continue to make "tuck-in" acquisitions.
Murphy wrote that he sees a "reasonable chance" that Oracle will end up buying BEA.
Demos sees room for growth of Oracle's advanced database software features among its large installed base of users. "They have some growth kickers in their core business. They're doing well vs. SAP in applications, as well," he added.
For 2008, Oracle's story will be centered on its long-awaited launch of Fusion middleware that will allow users of its acquired software products to integrate them more easily.
But Demos says there probably isn't much pent-up demand for Fusion, and he doesn't expect it to be a big driver in 2008.