Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Oracle’s Lousy Quarter Takes Many Other Stocks Down

Shares of enterprise software giant Oracle are getting hammered this morning in the wake of quarterly earnings that fell short of expectations. As of 10 am ET, Oracle shares had fallen $3.95, or more than 13 percent, on the news.

It’s not the only one: Several enterprise software and hardware players are falling right along with Oracle., whose primary customer relationship management software rivals Oracle’s, has fallen more than $8, or more than 8 percent. Oracle’s primary software rival, SAP, is down by more than $3, or more than 5 percent. IBM has fallen $6.73, or more than 3 percent. Hewlett-Packard is down 50 cents, or nearly 2 percent. Dell is down 40 cents, or more than 2 percent. Microsoft is falling, too, but not as much.

It looks a lot like what Cannaccord Genuity analyst Richard David predicted in a note to clients this morning. Oracle is something of a bellwether for software company and corporate IT stocks in general. A lot of the problems that sapped Oracle’s results this quarter, David wrote, are specific to Oracle. But in the minds of investors it doesn’t matter:

“Much of the miss was company specific, but it won’t matter this morning. Investors are likely to use this miss as a reason to pound software on Wednesday. We believe Oracle’s miss, combined with Red Hat’s heavily punished but modest scuffle on Tuesday, will first hit infrastructure stocks like VMWare, Citrix Sysems and then for good measure high fliers like Our view is more nuanced; Oracle missed because some buyers waited for a new hardware upgrade, and on the software front the firm is behind the curve in cloud applications. We expect Oracle to catch up, but it will be through some R&D and a lot of M&A. We would “back up the truck” on Salesforce if traders knock that stock down because cloud software companies are very likely to gain significant market share from non-cloud vendors.”

Davis cut his rating on Oracle to “Hold” from “Buy,” arguing that the shares will “trade sideways for the next two to three quarters.” Even after an expected “dead cat bounce” — a quick price recovery after a significant fall — Oracle will have some work to do. “Oracle will have to rebuild confidence that the firm is not is not headed to Microsoft’s valuation level over the next few years. Therefore, we can no longer rate Oracle a Buy.”

Not everyone was quite so negative. FBR analyst David Hilal, in a note to clients this morning, lowered his estimates on Oracle’s sales and profits for fiscal 2012. He now expects Oracle to report per-share profits of $2.36, down from $2.44, and cut his sales estimate to $37.7 billion from $39 billion. He also lowered his target to $34 from $38. Even so, he’s still bullish generally, albeit with lower expectations. “The macro debate will now focus on whether IT spending is finally coming under pressure due to broader economic concerns,” Hilal wrote. “While IT spending is not immune to such macro factors, we are not forecasting a material slowdown as we believe enterprises have already been cautious regarding their spending. However, some modest pullback should be expected, particularly post a seasonally strong end to the year.”

BMO Capital analyst Karl Keirstead didn’t agree with Hilal on that point. “Given some weak recent data points from Red Hat,, Intel and Accenture, we conclude that the macro IT spending backdrop in fact weakened and that the miss was not related to Oracle execution or share losses,” he wrote in a note to clients this morning. “We assumed that Oracle could manage through this tightness and we were obviously wrong.” He lowered his price target to $32 from $38 but maintained a “buy” rating.

Other analysts downgraded Oracle, too. Societé Generale analyst Richard Nguyen cut it to “Hold” from “Buy.” CLSA slashed Oracle shares to “underperform” from “buy,” and lowered its price target to $30 from $36. Deutsche Bank analyst Thomas Ernst lowered his target price to $29 from $33. It’s just one of those days.

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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google