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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.
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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