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Msg  133 of 137  at  9/13/2022 8:46:45 PM  by


Oracle's Cloud Strategy Is Working, but Margins Softened


Oracle's Cloud Strategy Is Working, but Margins Softened


For multiple quarters now, Oracle has been making the case that it can return to double-digit top-line growth as the company pushes more customers to cloud-based versions of its application and database software. There have been bumps in the road, but there is growing evidence that the story is playing out as promised.

Late Monday, Oracle (ticker: ORCL) reported financial results for its fiscal first quarter ended Aug. 31 that underlined the company's progress, pointed to the potential for faster growth ahead, and highlighted some tricky elements to their plan. The results were also obscured by the company's recent acquisition of the electronic health records company Cerner, which contributed $1.4 billion in revenue to the quarterly results.

For the quarter, Oracle posted revenue of $11.4 billion, up 18% from a year ago, or up 23% when adjusted for currency. Adjusted for the Cerner deal, organic growth was 8%. In any case, the results were a clean top-line beat: guidance had called for 20% to 22% currency-adjusted growth, and Street consensus had been $11.2 billion.

But profits fell short of expectations. Oracle had projected adjusted profits per share of $1.03, missing both its own guidance range from $1.09 to $1.13, and the Street consensus at $1.07. The miss reflected a combination of unfavorable foreign-exchange rates and accelerating capital investment to support the growth of OCI (Oracle Cloud Infrastructure), the company's fast-growing cloud computing arm.

Oracle said cloud revenue rose 45% to $3.6 billion, or 50% adjusted for currency. The company said more than 30% of revenue now comes from cloud-based software and services—and CEO Safra Catz said that the company expects continued growth to drive double-digit organic revenue and profit growth in coming quarters. For the November quarter, the company is projected revenue growth of 15% to 17%, or 21% to 23% in constant currency.

After initial trading modestly higher on the results, Oracle stock on Tuesday have turned lower amid a sea of red, as tech shares lead the market lower amid a disappointing government report on inflation. Analyst reaction to the Oracle results was generally upbeat, though analysts were modestly disappointed with a decline in operating margins that was evident in the earnings-per-share miss.

Guggenheim analyst John DiFucci noted that capital expenditures in the quarter were $1.7 billion, up 21% from the May quarter, and 62% above the year-ago level, and will increase further in the November quarter. While that spending muted margins, DiFucci sees the increased outlays as a sign of good things to come. "There's a reason for this increase: It's to feed growth," he wrote. "Not the growth this quarter, but the growth that's coming." DiFucci keeps his Buy rating and $107 target price on Oracle stock.

Evercore ISI analyst Kirk Materne keeps his In Line rating on the stock, but boosted his target to $87 from $78. "While there are some moving parts in terms of the Cerner integration and the expanding capex related to the growth in OCI, we believe the broader trends are heading in the right direction as it relates to the cloud opportunity," Materne wrote in a research note reviewing the quarter. He also noted that "Oracle does not seem to be seeing some of the macro overhangs weighing on others."

Monness Crespi Hardt analyst Brian White, who has a Buy rating and $113 target on the stock, wrote that the company provided "respectable" results and a "good enough" outlook in a challenging environment. "In our view, Oracle offers investors a high-quality, value play with the opportunity to participate in an attractive cloud transformation and gain exposure to the digital-modernization initiatives emerging in the healthcare vertical," White wrote in a research note on the quarter.

Other analysts remain cautious on the stock. Morgan Stanley's Keith Weiss keeps his Equal Weight rating and $90 target price. "Visibility into the various moving pieces on the Oracle revenue growth equation remains murky, and made even tougher with the inclusion of Cerner," he wrote. "While the investments Oracle is making look to be driving better cloud momentum, in the current macro environment, earnings-per-share growth driven by expense controls garners more investor credibility than forecasts of accelerating revenue growth, a bias that may cap Oracle share appreciation in the near term."

Oracle stock on Tuesday is off 0.8%, to $76.48, outperforming a nearly 4% decline in the Nasdaq Composite.


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