Business

Clearly, Oracle is no longer a growth stock: Disappointing revenue, higher dividend

Oracle Buildings
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/markcoggins/160115925/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Oracle Buildings

Oracle reported disappointing revenue numbers today for fiscal Q4 2013: revenue of $10.95 billion and income of $0.87 per share. Analysts had been expecting that same income on revenue of $11.12 billion.

The company’s hardware division continued to struggle, and software licenses updates and support contracts increased only slightly, by 6 percent, while new software licenses were up only 1 percent.

In a clear sign that the company is no longer a growth stock that investors buy for capital gains, Oracle increased its dividend 100 percent to $0.12 per common share, which will be paid in August. And in spite of the fact that the dividend will be paid to investors of record as of July 12, three weeks from now, the stock sunk almost a dollar, 2.58 percent, in after-hours trading.

Oracle stock

One bright spot? The cloud:

“Oracle’s [cloud products] grew 50 percent as we added over 500 new SaaS customers in Q4 alone,” said Oracle President Mark Hurd. “Our annualized SaaS revenue run rate is over $1 billion, making us a strong number two in cloud applications – we are larger than SAP and Workday combined.”

However, looked at another way, Oracle is still way behind on the cloud, which is a big growth area in the overall economy. You could argue that one reason for Oracle’s missed expectations is that growth in on-premise software sales is declining overall, and that cloud is where most of the growth is. Oracle is still predominantly focused on the enterprise sale. While Oracle has made some astute acquisitions to service the cloud, its pieces don’t fit together yet. It’s also true that Oracle’s key enterprise accounts are generally not that interested in moving core internal databases to the cloud, which compounds the issue. [Editor’s note: We’re focusing on the key trends in cloud technology at our CloudBeat event in SF on Sept 9-10 in San Francisco]

Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison believes that hardware products will once again be a growth story for the company next year, as the company is seeing system wins versus key competitor IBM:

“Exadata, Exalogic, Exalytics, SPARC SuperCluster, and our other engineered systems grew at a rate of 45 percent in Q4 as we took considerable market share from our primary competitor – IBM P-Series – which declined 32 percent in their most recent quarter,” said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. “We sold over 1,200 engineered systems in the quarter and over 3,000 during the year. Our fast-growing engineered systems business is now more than one-third of our overall hardware business, which is one of the reasons we believe hardware will be a growth story in Oracle’s FY14.”

Oracle’s profit of $0.87 per share on lower-than-expected revenue is also a potential sign of revenue manipulation by the only lever companies really have at their quick disposal: cost control. Using that lever is generally not a great sign of corporate health — nor does it tend to position a company for subsequent growth.

Still, there’s no doubt that the company is a cash cow.

“A record level non-GAAP operating margin of 47 percent in FY13 enabled us to generate over $14 billion in operating cash flow during the year,” said Oracle President and CFO, Safra Catz. “We returned almost 90 percent of that to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases while increasing the cash on our balance sheet to $32 billion. Consistently increasing our margins, cash flow and cash balance has allowed us to double our current quarterly dividend.”

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