Despite the company's far-sighted namesake, Oracle's
Before it reported earnings last night, many people expected revenue growth of 19%, bolstered by strong growth in its core database and middleware offerings. Last night, it did announce 19% revenue growth. But its database and middleware business grew by 5% year over year, or 8% on a constant currency basis. On a positive note, its software-related revenues were up 18% year over year, and up 20% on a constant currency basis. Earnings were also in line, but were hindered slightly by integration costs related to Oracle's PeopleSoft acquisition. Its forecast for next quarter generally matched its previous guidance and The Street's earlier estimates.
As Oracle doesn't release its organic growth numbers, it's tough to determine how much it would have grown without its acquisition spree. That's where the problem lies. As Oracle begins to face year-over-year comparisons that include PeopleSoft, it will have a new acquisition to cloud the numbers. The buyout of Siebel Systems
Oracle does generate tons of free cash flow -- $3.3 billion in the most recent trailing 12 months -- but it was down 2% sequentially. Cash flow may continue to fall as the company expands its efforts to integrate PeopleSoft, Retek, and Siebel into one coherent system that works flawlessly with Oracle's core database and middleware systems. That's no easy task, and it may take several years.
My concern has always revolved around the integration issues of Oracle's buying spree, and what the company will look like when the dust settles. Oracle has been buying growth for the past two years, and pushing out the inevitable growth slowdown that comes from the law of large numbers. These issues have already begun catching up with the stock; at yesterday's closing price of $12.83, it's down 7.5% year to date. Eventually, the company will finish integrating its purchases and have a coherent single system. Until then, its future remains cloudy.
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Fool contributor Rob Perri is a freelance writer living in Europe and would love to be on a beach right now someplace warm. He doesn't own any shares of the companies mentioned above, and would love to hear from you at Robert.Perri@gmail.com.