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Larry Ellison: Rule Breaker

Want to know why I own shares in Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) ? Because CEO Larry Ellison is a Rule Breaker, that's why. Time and again, the brash bully of Silicon Valley has defied conventional thinking and so-called Wall Street Wisdom, coming out ahead in each instance. Witness yesterday's fourth-quarter fiscal 2005 earnings report, for example.

Yesterday the database king silenced critics who had skewered last year's pursuit of PeopleSoft by reporting big gains where it counts the most: in sales of new software licenses. The core database business grew 16% year-over-year during the fourth quarter while application software sales jumped by 52% over the same period. In all, Oracle's net income rose 4% for the quarter and 10% for the full fiscal year. Excluding acquisition-related charges and gains, net income rose by 36% for the quarter and 31% for the year. Impressive, eh? Well, it gets better. Let's move on to the cash flow statement.

Last quarter I said I was a little disappointed in Oracle's owner earnings run rate. Maybe Larry was listening? The database king juiced structural free cash flow to $3.12 billion for all of fiscal 2005.

Next, it's on to the balance sheet, where the dramatic gains in cash flow had a profound impact. Take stockholder equity, for example. You may recall Oracle had negative equity last quarter, a result of overpaying for PeopleSoft. It took all of one quarter to reverse that. Total debt, for example, declined by more than $4.5 billion. Net cash and investments, however, were lower by only $4.3 billion.

I expect the improvements to continue. Management says to expect 2006 full-year revenue to be between $14.2 and $14.4 billion. Over the past four years, Oracle's margin on structural free cash flow has floated between 22.7% and 30.4%. The midpoint comes in at 26.5%. At that rate, we can expect Oracle to generate between $3.7 and $3.8 billion in owner earnings for next fiscal year. And that means the database king trades today for 18 times its expected structural free cash flow.

That's pretty good news, Fool. CEO Ellison has made it clear that Oracle will make more acquisitions, but only if they'll help the company generate 20% annual growth over the next five years. You read that right: 20% annual growth to 2010 from a company trading at 18 times cash flow today.

Could this be more Ellison hype? Possibly, but I think it's more likely another opportunity to buy a Rule Breaking stock on sale.

Want more prophesy from the Oracle? Try this related Foolishness:

Fool contributor and Oracle shareholder Tim Beyerswonders whether Larry Ellison has his eye on Siebel, too. Hmmmmm. What's your take? Share your thoughts with other Fools at the Oracle discussion board.

As mentioned above, Tim owns shares in Oracle. You can find out what else is in Tim's portfolio by checking out his Fool profile here. The Motley Fool has an iron-clad disclosure policy.

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10/25/2016 1:46 PM
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