If there’s one top tech executive who isn’t all that concerned about the ongoing economic meltdown, it’s Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.
Given his personality, that’s hardly surprising.
Citing the “most important” and “most profitable” part of Oracle’s business as the “installed base that renews every year,” Ellison believes that Oracle is in a strong position to weather the economic storm, going so far as to state that the firm will remain profitable regardless of whether or not new sales slow.
And despite the decline in Oracle’s stock price, Ellison sees an opportunity to buy Oracle stock.
He has also made it clear that Oracle is going to take advantage of the weak market to put its cash to work buying up other companies that might be more eager to sell in such circumstances, most likely focusing on “small-but-growing companies rather than large publicly traded ones.“
So what to make of Ellison’s confidence? Is he confident because he doesn’t know how to be or is he confident because he has good reason to be
When one looks at the position of many of the world’s top technology companies, I suspect it may just be the latter.
While no company is going to come out of an economic downturn without a few scratches and bruises, Oracle is in an enviable position.
Oracle still maintains a dominant lead in the database market as measured by marketshare, has made great inroads in the enterprise software market and has a strong financial position. This gives it a lot of flexibility that many companies don’t have.
While I’m personally not inclined to start buying technology stocks like Oracle (yet), I do think companies like Oracle have a much better shot at emerging from the economic mess in far better shape than many of their peers.
Why? One word – fundamentals.
As many in the tech industry are about to be reminded, solid products, customer lock-in, profitability, a strong balance sheet and revenue diversification are worth their weight in gold. This, of course, favors stodgy old tech titans like Oracle and Microsoft.
Even a company like Google, which has a strong cash position, has far more to lose than firms like Oracle and Microsoft because it has a single and vulnerable cash-cow.
As such, when looking at the companies most likely to emerge from recession looking a lot like they did when they went in, Oracle certainly has a place near the top of the list.
On an unrelated note, Ellison has spoken out about cloud computing. At a shareholder meeting in Redwood City, Ellison stated:
“I think it’s ludicrous that cloud computing is going to take over the world. But they get very excited about it, and it’s this big echo chamber.”
According to Ellison, Oracle has no interest in building “the cloud” because “it’s the Webvan of computing.” Ouch.
Interestingly, Ellison noted that software-as-a-service, despite the hype, isn’t the market that it’s often made out to be. He pointed out that Salesforce.com, widely held up as the poster child of software-as-a-service success, is “barely profitable.“
For those who believe that the next boom will be driven by “the cloud,” his words probably aren’t very comforting.
At the end of the day, if Ellison’s confidence about Oracle’s future turns out to have been well-placed, he might just want to treat himself to another yacht. And if he’s right about cloud computing, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs looking to the cloud for Boom 3.0 might want to hold off on picking out their yachts.