Oracle's Early Q4 Eases Management Shuffle Concerns

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Oracle's ( ORCL) fourth-quarter earnings report -- released three days ahead of schedule -- eased concerns about macro weakness and speculations about management changes in the sales department.

"The magnitude of the upside of Oracle's earnings was not as large as investors have become accustomed to for Oracle's seasonally strong fourth quarter; however, given increased concerns about the macro environment and about potential changes within sales, we think the results will be a sigh of relief for many," wrote David Hilal, an analyst with FBR Capital Markets.

Hilal, who reiterated an outperform rating and $36 price target on Oracle shares, said he believes that Oracle released its report early because "as news about the head of North American sales leaving the company started to surface, one interpretation was that the quarter was going to be disappointing. Clearly that was not the case, the company wanted to make that clear to investors."

Oracle confirmed that Keith Block, former head of North American sales, is no longer with the company and said there are no other major changes in management.

After Monday's closing bell, Oracle posted a non-GAAP profit of $4.1 billion, or 82 cents a share, for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended in May, with a non-GAAP revenue totaling $11 billion over the same period.

New software license revenue jumped 7% year-over-year to $4 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were looking for earnings of 78 cents a share on revenue of $10.89 billion in the latest three-month period.

Along with strong fourth-quarter results, Oracle's board approved an additional $10 billion stock repurchase authorization, leaving the company with $13.2 billion in its current program, and declared its quarterly dividend of 6 cents per share.

JP Morgan's John DiFucci maintained an overweight rating of the software giant with a price target of $38, as fourth-quarter earnings were "driven by strength in Applications, the Americas and Asia Pacific, and signs of a stabilizing Hardware business."

"While hardware product revenues declined 15% year-over-year, they also hit the high guidance for the first time since the Sun acquisition," DiFucci said. Oracle reported revenue of $977 million for its hardware systems products, representing the first sequential growth in a year.

DiFucci added that the Applications business, which grew 27% year-over-year in constant currency, was driven by strength in Healthcare, Retail, and Financial Services. "We believe this is an area of focus as Oracle plans to provide deeper functionality within targeted industries and hence, we would not be surprised to see future M&A activity tied to this strategy," he said.

UBS analyst Brent Thill, was spot-on with his fourth-quarter estimates and maintains his buy rating and $36 price target; however, he added that there is "still work to do in the Cloud and selling the full IT stack story to customers."

Oracle shares are gaining 2.56% in Tuesday trading, last changing hands at $27.82.

-- Written by Nathalie Pierrepont in New York.

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