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I've been a critic of Oracle's (Nasdaq: ORCL ) buyout of Sun Microsystems from the beginning. Today, Larry Ellison and his gang are starting to close my big mouth a bit. There's still more to be done before I'm entirely convinced of this deal's value, though.
Oracle's third-quarter sales came in at $6.4 billion, a 17% jump year over year. But that includes a month of Sun contributions that weren't there a year ago; when you back that component out, you get a 7% annual boost, because Sun pulled $596 million of revenue back to the Oracle anthill. GAAP earnings per share, where it's entirely fair to include restructuring costs Sun brought to the table because some acquisition indigestion was expected, fell 11% to $0.23 per share.
Sun is expected to contribute to earnings next quarter as Oracle trims some fat. I don't mean cutting back Sun's product lines, but simply making Sun a more efficient operation. Sun used to resell things like Hitachi (NYSE: HIT ) storage arrays and Symantec's (Nasdaq: SYMC ) Veritas backup software, which added sales but no profits to the income statement. Oracle won't resell products from Sun's old partners unless it's profitable for Oracle. That is a step that Sun should have taken on its own, years ago. Good move, Larry.
Moreover, Sun used to pre-build tons of server systems to have them ready to ship when a customer ordered them, but the new Sun is a build-to-order operation in the classic mold of Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) . It's a low-inventory model that cuts writedowns of systems that were built but left unsold, and a leaner operating model overall. Again, something Sun could have done alone but never did.
So the whole Sun idea seems to be working out OK so far, as Larry Ellison brings a measure of common sense to a sloppy operation. That's one way to unlock value from a buyout. Now let's see if Oracle can keep it up and integrate all of Sun before the clash of the corporate culture titans sets in, right after the honeymoon.
In other news, Oracle management took every opportunity to badmouth software rivals IBM (NYSE: IBM ) , salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM ) , and SAP (NYSE: SAP ) . Ellison took a jab at SAP right in the earnings report, and the criticism continued at length in the earnings call. It's great entertainment, but this schadenfreude doesn't always look professional, guys. Grow up a bit, will you?
Will Sun become great once again as part of Oracle -- or not? The comment box is open for discussion.