Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Praising with faint damnation

An analyst downgraded shares of Oracle Corp. late Monday, saying a slowdown in spending on software by companies may pressure its earnings.

JMP Securities analyst Patrick Walravens downgraded the business-software maker to "Market Outperform" from "Strong Buy" and lowered his price target to $23 from $24.

"While we still believe Oracle will outperform the software industry, our due diligence suggests Oracle's business is slowing along with enterprise software spending," Walravens said in a client note.

JMP conducted a survey of 38 businesses across the economy and 61 percent said their software spending would stay the same or fall in 2008, he said.

"This survey result is the worst we have had since 2001 and is similar to the result in May 2003, which marked the beginning of a two- to three-year choppy period for Oracle's business," Walravens said.

Business in the Americas may be the slowest, he said, and should be helped by performance in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Yet the slowing North American unit may make the company's forecast conservative, Walravens said. He lowered his 2008 earnings forecast to $1.21 per share from $1.23 per share.

From an AP story.

It's hard to get too worked up about this "downgrade". For one thing, I don't know what the difference between "Strong Buy" and "Market Outperform" might be. Second, $23 is still a pretty good premium over the current price. Third, the difference between $1.23 and $1.21 a share is well within noise, not much different from Wall Street's consensus, and nearly 20% up from this year.

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