Buckle up for tech volatility, campers. Thursday should be a long day, as we wait the requisite 6.5 hours for tech bellwether Oracle
Analysts are optimistic about the company, at least in the medium term. Whereas they suspect Oracle was hard-pressed to match its revenue growth with earnings growth this quarter past and will report just 19% of the latter versus 24% of the former, the opinion is reversed a bit further down the road. In fiscal Q3 2006, these same analysts again expect the company to deliver 19% earnings growth (and with the same numbers: last year's $0.16 per share becoming this year's $0.19) but to achieve it off a much smaller base of revenue growth -- just 13%, in fact.
But from this Fool's perspective, tomorrow's results don't matter too much. At least not by the measures that Wall Street ordinarily applies: "beat by a penny," "met estimates," or "missed by a penny" -- it's all the same to me, because Oracle looks to be priced to move, regardless.
Consider: Over the past 12 months, the company has generated $3.4 billion in free cash flow, far in excess of its $2.9 billion in net profits. Measure that against Oracle's market capitalization of just $65.4 billion, and you'll find that it sports a price-to-free cash flow (P/FCF) ratio of just 19.3, yet it boasts a return on equity of 30%.
Granted, with its current PEG of 1.5, Oracle doesn't appear to be much of a bargain at first glance (the old rule of thumb in stock investing is that a company is fairly valued when its P/E divided by its long-term growth rate -- 10% in Oracle's case -- equals 1.0). But in the big picture, it's worth pointing out that the broader S&P 500 index also has an average PEG of 1.0, yet its return on equity of 20% falls short of Oracle's. In other words, Oracle is a better-than-average company selling for an average price.
Oracle seems to be part of a recent trend in the stock market -- a trend that sees superb large-cap tech companies falling to reasonable, or even discounted, prices. Consider also Cisco
So whatever the news out of Redwood City tomorrow, be it good, bad, or indifferent, remember one thing: Oracle's cheap.
It seems Rich isn't the only Fool calling Oracle a buy. Read Tim Beyers' buy thesis in: "Halloween Treat: Oracle."
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Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position, long or short, in any company named above.