Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why I'm selling Oracle

I'm now in the process of writing in-the-money call options on my remaining Oracle shares with the intention of closing my position soon. Today I sold a $22.50 October call for 60¢ when Oracle was selling for about $22.85. By my calculations, there is about a 63% chance the option would be exercised. Oracle ended the day at $22.92, which boosts the odds a couple of percentage points. After commission, I'll be selling Oracle for the equivalent of $23 a share in about 9 days. I'm also trying to sell November options to cover the rest of my Oracle position.

In my opinion, Oracle is no longer a good value. A conservative growth assumption of 10% a year for the next 5 years would come out to about $21 a share. Using more aggressive growth rates will produce higher estimates, of course, but we are now firmly in the range of reasonable valuations. That makes Oracle less attractive to hold and unattractive to buy. If there was a dividend, especially if there was a good chance it would be raised, I'd have more reason to hang on. But the share buybacks Oracle currently uses to return value to shareholders don't excite me at these prices.

I should note that Oracle will continue to be on my radar over the next few years because it is a business that is not well understood. Earlier this week, SAP made an offer to buy Business Objects, which was widely reported as a change in course to Oracle's acquisition strategy. The trouble with that statement is that Oracle's strategy isn't to just buy up competitors, but to get the best software even if it has to buy whole companies to do so. SAP might be doing the right thing, but only if Business Objects to improves SAP's own suite of products and doesn't cost too much. SAP's action doesn't "validate Oracle's strategy"—it merely increases the cost for Oracle to buy good businesses. So it's been odd to see Oracle's price going up this week rather than down.

No comments: