You're Wrong to Sell Oracle

Shares of Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) were down around 3% this morning, thanks to what investors appear to believe was a sobering fiscal-first-quarter earnings report.

Big mistake.

I'll get to why in a minute. First, let's talk numbers. Earnings, at $0.30 per share on a non-GAAP basis, were roughly in line with what analysts expected. Oracle's $5.1 billion in revenue wasn't; Wall Street had projected $5.2 billion in sales for the database king.

Cue grumpy investors. ("Release the hounds! Where are my flood boots! Find my super-secret stash of emergency Twinkies!")

To be fair, there is a legitimate cause for concern here. New license revenue declined 17% year over year. Mix in increasing competition from SAP (NYSE: SAP  ) , Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , and IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) and a stink-eyed European Commission, which isn't yet ready to release Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: JAVA  ) into Larry Ellison's hands, and it's tough to know exactly where Oracle's short-term growth will come from.

And yet, even with all that, Oracle produced more than $3.6 billion in free cash flow during the quarter, and $8.5 billion over the trailing 12 months. Oracle trades for just under 13 times FCF, below its recent cash flow growth rates. (Its trailing cash flow has grown 14% over the past year, for reference.)

I'll grant that Oracle doesn't offer much of a discount at these levels, but does it really need to? Buying Oracle invests you in one of tech's most durable businesses, led by an experienced management team that's buying a key catalyst -- Sun's hardware and software business -- at a fair price.

Oracle may not be cheap, but, to me, it's still as good a long-term value as you'll find in the tech sector. I've bet real money on it. Think I'm crazy? Tell me, using the comments section below.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of IBM and Oracle at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy thinks it's time for the perma-bears to hibernate.


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