Blame deal slippage
Goldman Sachs Group analyst Sarah Friar said in a March 27 research note that Oracle's third quarter had disappointed with a weak applications performance-down 12 percent year over year-but declined to lower the firm's expectations of Oracle's prospects. Goldman maintained a buy rating on Oracle. "We are leaving our estimates unchanged [for full fiscal 2008 and 2009]," Friar wrote. "We still view Oracle as one of the most defensive names in our group given its broad maintenance base, international exposure and ability to cross-sell."Oracle has acquired about 45 companies since it began a massive shopping spree in 2005, including a dozen in 2008 alone. One of its biggest acquisitions, a $8.5 billion purchase of BEA Systems, is pending now. Surely more acquisitions are to come in the new year, as Oracle secured a $2 billion revolving line of credit earlier in the week of March 24. Bernstein's Di Bona said his firm is concerned by Oracle's lack of disclosure-especially as it relates to the dozen acquisitions Oracle made in 2008, "10 of which were included in but not specifically accounted for in the quarter's revenue figures." The issue is that Oracle makes it difficult to identify organic growth as opposed to growth through acquisitions, he said. "According to Oracle's cash flow statement, the company spent over $700 million (net of cash acquired) on seven acquisitions in the past nine months, none of which were broken out," Di Bona wrote. "Given the lack of disclosure on the [earnings] call, we are unable to account for the impact of acquisitions. ... We would again point out that this methodology of computing 'organic' growth is not our preference as it does not speak to organic growth of the acquired entities."
Friar fell short of pinpointing Oracle's acquisition strategy as a potential issue, but rather pointed the finger at "deal slippage at the end of February, driven by macro uncertainty, elongating sales cycles, and weakness in financials," as creating a "tough read-across for other software vendors with enterprise and large deal exposure."