On Thursday night, we'll get a first-quarter 2008 update from enterprise software architect Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL). What do the tea leaves tell us about the state of the company today? Let's find out.

What analysts say:

  • Buy, sell, or waffle? Thrity-seven analysts hearken to Oracle's tidings. Twenty-four of them have a buy rating on the stock; 12 are content to hold; and one rebel wants to sell. In our Motley Fool CAPS database, this is a four-star stock these days, based on input from more than 1,330 investors like you and me. 
  • Revenues. $4.34 billion would keep the average analyst happy, and that would be a 19% increase from the year-ago period's $3.66 billion.
  • Earnings. The consensus forecast calls for $0.21 per share, up from $0.18 per share a year ago.

What management says:
In the fourth-quarter report, CFO Safra Katz said that "If you have the right strategy and the best technology it will show up in your results. The numbers speak for themselves."

OK, so let's have a look at some numbers.

What management does:
This is a remarkably steady combination of earnings growth on autopilot and stable margins. Oracle also generates copious amounts of free cash flow, which tends to be invested in major acquisitions that form the basis of the company's growth.

Margins

2/2006

5/2006

8/2006

11/2006

2/2007

5/2007

Gross

77.2%

77.5%

77%

76.6%

76.5%

76.7%

Operating

34.2%

34.5%

34.1%

33.7%

33.5%

34.1%

Net

23.1%

23.5%

23.2%

23%

23.3%

23.7%

FCF/Revenue

27.3%

29.9%

29.4%

27.3%

27.8%

28.9%

Y-O-Y Growth

2/2006

5/2006

8/2006

11/2006

2/2007

5/2007

Revenue

21.9%

21.9%

23.1%

24.7%

26.9%

25.1%

Earnings

8.7%

17.2%

22%

28.6%

27.9%

26.4%

All data courtesy of Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data reflects trailing-12-month performance for the quarters ended in the named months.

One Fool says:
Of course, the management team said a lot more than just "look at the numbers" last time around. You could say that the Oracle leaders have developed a habit of thumbing their noses at the competition at every opportunity.

Between the earnings release and the attendant conference call, these guys managed to get in digs on IBM's (NYSE:IBM) database market share, SAP AG's (NYSE:SAP) "strategy of trying to build everything themselves using a 1970s-era proprietary programming language," and a newfound "price performance lead against Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and everyone else."

There was no mention of Red Hat (NYSE:RHT), despite Oracle's extensive efforts to steal Linux share from the crimson fedora, nor did Larry Ellison and company mention Tibco (NASDAQ:TIBX) and its award-winning management products that compete with Oracle Fusion. Were these just oversights, or a lack of something funny to say about them? Perhaps the cold shoulder is a sign of respect, or that things aren't going too well for the prophets in these rivalries.

Not that two companies with more than a $5 billion market cap combined could hurt mighty Oracle too badly, but the silence is still interesting. Maybe we'll hear a wisecrack or two about them this time.

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure is the prognosticator of prognosticators.