Editors' pick: Originally published March 21.
The best technology stocks offer rapid growth and solid dividends yields. Database software maker Oracle (ORCL) and creative software major Adobe Systems (ADBE) are currently riding a wave of turbo-charged growth. Analysts have been surprised by their earnings potential and rock-steady balance sheets.
So which stock should you buy? The slower but more stable Oracle, or the faster-growing but slightly riskier Adobe?
We give you all the details on which stock belongs in the tech sector's winner's circle.
The 38-year-old enterprise software firm Oracle is fast transforming itself into a formidable cloud player. While peers like Workday and Amazon were clearly ahead in the early runnings, Oracle is catching up thanks to its massive efforts in this area.
After pushing earnings-per-share (EPS) by less than 4% every year for the last five years, Oracle is now projected to almost double that rate, which puts Oracle in the vanguard of tech stocks poised to beat the broader markets this year.
In the last 10 years, Oracle's revenues have grown from $14.3 billion to $38.2 billion and profits have also tripled to almost $10 billion. Operating margins have also improved.
The company now churns out $11 billion-to-$12 billion in free cash flows every year.
Having grown dividends by four years in a row, Oracle's 1.45% yield is comfortable (payout ratio is at less than 25%) and can keep surging ahead.
Granted, Oracle's growth isn't on the order of a Google (now known as Alphabet) or a Facebook, but Oracle's growth spurt is nonetheless a compelling tech stock opportunity in a risky investment climate.
With the stock dropping by 6% over the last 12 months, a $10 billion buyback is being penciled in.
Oracle has also been snapping up a bevy of tiny firms, which only reinforce its overall value: AddThis, Datalogix, BlueKai, Maxymiser, Eloqua and Responsys will help Oracle gain more muscle as it takes the battle to IBM, Adobe and Salesforce.com.
While the company's Saas/Paas revenues have been growing steadily, its on-premises/cloud business has been a nagging area of concern. As mentioned earlier, Oracle's also addressed this chink in its armor.
Trading at less than 15-times forward price-to-earnings and EV/EBITDA of 10.77 times, Oracle shares are cheap compared to SAP and Salesforce.com. This a defensive tech stock that offers stable growth, a nifty dividend and a chance keep the momentum going, if its Cloud business holds.
But what about Adobe? Let's take a look and see if it's an even better tech play for the long haul.
For over 30 years now, Adobe has evolved into an expert in the field of multimedia and creativity software products.
Its more recent foray towards Internet application software development is a strategic move calculated to pay rich dividends.
This is a company with a history of proving analysts wrong. For at least four quarters, Adobe has beaten EPS forecasts. The stock is near its recent highs and is poised to deliver further.
Notwithstanding its 21.50% gains over the last year, the stock could easily go beyond the $115 mark. A net cash balance sheet, near 20% operating margins (trailing 12 months), around 20% revenue growth projections and the ability to deliver nearly 30% EPS growth for the next five years makes the stock a highly valuable tech sector investment.
Adobe's digital media bet is playing out well, too, and its marketing cloud business is a strong growth driver.
While it doesn't pay any dividends, Adobe's shares at a price-to-earnings growth PEG ratio of 1.10 are among the cheapest growth opportunities your money can buy in the enterprise software space.
Peers like Paylocity Holding (PEG: 8.33), Workday Inc. (PEG: 72), Guidewire Software (3.79), and ServiceNow Inc. (2.09) pale in comparison, when you look at Adobe.
Our choice is clear: Oracle is a solid stock, but if you had to choose between the two, Adobe confers more advantages.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.