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Oracle's 14% Earnings Growth Sprung From 15% Share Buybacks

Database systems giant Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) reported earnings last Thursday, covering the first quarter of fiscal year 2020. The report was roughly in line with analyst expectations, and guidance for the next report was also reasonably upbeat.

Here's a closer look at Oracle's latest results.

Oracle's first-quarter results: The raw numbers


Q1 2020

Q1 2019

Change (Decline)


$9.22 billion

$9.19 billion


Net income

$2.14 billion

$2.27 billion


Adjusted earnings per share (diluted)




Data source: Oracle.

What happened with Oracle this quarter?

  • Management's guidance for this quarter had called for adjusted earnings near $0.81 per share on revenues in the neighborhood of $9.28 billion, assuming a currency conversion headwind of approximately 1%. The actual currency translation effect was a 1.3% reduction of top-line revenue, and the reported results were within Oracle's given guidance ranges.
  • Sales of cloud services rose 3% year over year and accounted for 74% of Oracle's total second-quarter revenue. Other divisions faced tougher comparisons, led by a 10% drop in hardware sales and 6% lower license sales.
  • Share buybacks played a large part in Oracle's share-based earnings gains. The company reduced its share count by 15% over the last four quarters, spending $29.6 billion on net share repurchases along the way. Free cash flows over the same period added up to $12.2 billion, so Oracle took a deep dip into its cash coffers to finance this buyback spree.

Image source: Getty Images.

What management had to say

In the earnings call, founder and CTO Larry Ellison highlighted the business value of Oracle's Autonomous Database.

"What's really important is the second-generation autonomous cloud prevents data theft, which you can never do in a first-generation manual cloud," Ellison said. "The Oracle Database doesn't ask if you want to back it up or if you want to encrypt your data -- it does all of this automatically while it's running. The only way you can prevent data theft is to eliminate human error. The only way you can do that was with an autonomous database, and we have one, and our competitors don't. This is a very big deal."

Ellison compared the Autonomous Database with the safety-boosting quality of self-driving cars. In his view, Oracle offers the only machine-powered framework for running a next-generation database system that won't suffer from human error. (NASDAQ: AMZN) recently introduced a similar auto-management platform for databases in the Amazon Web Services cloud. Ellison argues that Amazon's product can't hold a candle to his own company's self-managing database structures, but I guess the free market will settle that score in the end. Remember: Larry Ellison is known for making big, bold claims that don't always match up with reality.

Looking ahead

CEO Safra Catz offered the following forecast for the second quarter.

  • Assuming a 1% currency headwind relative to the year-ago period, revenues should grow approximately 1% to land near $9.75 billion.
  • Adjusted earnings are headed toward roughly $0.88 per diluted share, including a $0.01 slowdown stemming from negative currency exchange trends. That would be something like 10% above the second quarter of fiscal year 2018.
  • For the record, these targets run right in line with Wall Street's consensus view. Analysts currently expect Oracle's second-quarter earnings to stop near $0.88 per share on sales around $9.65 billion.

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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Anders Bylund owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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