Larry Ellison, Oracle’s founder, executive chairman, and CTO, was in good spirits as he took questions from Wall Street analysts Thursday.
Oracle executives and analysts were gathered during the company’s big annual tech conference that took place this week in San Francisco.
One of his best moments was when an analyst asked him why Oracle didn’t try boosting investor confidence in the shares with the tried-and-true strategy of increasing dividends.
The shares are down about 13% since a high of almost $45 in June. Investors are waiting to see how well Oracle can ramp up its all-important cloud-computing business. Last quarter, the board declared a $0.15 dividend.
Ellison loved the idea of boosting dividends, he joked. That’s because he’s Oracle’s largest individual shareholder. He owns 27% of the company with nearly 1.2 billion shares.
Without missing a beat he quipped:
“You’re not going to get me to come out against increasing the dividend,” he said, giggling out loud. “I think that’s a hell of an idea, maybe 4% would be good. Start a petition. I’ll be the first to sign!” He laughed some more. “Actually, I have my truck out front. I can pick up my share.”
The funny thing is, he probably wouldn’t mind a bigger dividend. Ellison rarely sells his Oracle shares and, given how much he spends – mansions, private golf courses, a Hawaiian island, jets, cars, the America’s Cup – he’s been known to borrow money to smooth out his cash flow. Last year, he used a fraction of his Oracle stake as collateral to secure a $10 billion personal line of credit.
But when he stopped laughing at the thought of a truckload of cash coming his way, he did answer the question more seriously.
He wants Oracle to have the cash on hand to do a big acquisition when the time is right.
“We use our money for a variety of things. We buy back stock, we pay dividends. We haven’t made any large acquisitions for a while. You know? We’re kind of saving our nickels and dimes. We might do something interesting, one of these days. Not anytime soon. We are singularly focused not on acquisitions but on maturing our cloud business.”
The one big acquisition he’s not planning on making? EMC. When asked about that he said, he replied, “I can tell you, we’re not bidding for EMC.”