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Red Hat Shares Take A 30% Beating Before Stock Rallies

Posted October 27, 2006

— Shares in

Red Hat

plunged 30 percent to a new 52-week low of $13.70 on Thursday morning following software giant Oracle’s announcement on Wednesday that it would move into the Linux software space.

By 11:30 a.m., more than 58 million shares had traded hands – nine times the daily average. By the close of trading, more than 113 million shares had been traded.

Red Hat issued a statement attempting to put a positive spin on Oracle chief Larry Ellison’s assault on their market.

"The opportunity for open source just got bigger,” Red Hat said. “Oracle's announcement further validates Red Hat's technical leadership. We will continue to optimize Red Hat Enterprise Linux for Oracle and compete on value and innovation."

That statement came after Chairman Matthew Szulik told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Red Hat would compete.

Red Hat (Nasdaq: RHAT) closed at $19.51 on Wednesday, but the share price dropped dramatically in overnight trading to Thursday’s opening price of $15.80.

Shortly thereafter, panicked Red Hat shareholders sent the price down to $13.70.

Red Hat launch a rebuttal to Oracle’s “Unbreakable Linux” announcement complete with an armor-clad penguin logo on the Red Hat Web site claiming “Unfakeable Linux”. The company also published a lengthy question-and-answer document defending the Red Hat position.

Szulik, meanwhile, declined an interview invitation from both WRAL TV and WRAL Local Tech Wire.

By 11:30 a.m., buyers rallied the stock back to $14.34. That rally held even as trading volume remained heavy. By day’s end, Red Hat had rallied to $14.83.

Still, the drop of 24 percent knocked $4.68 off the Red Hat share price.

Analysts went on the warpath against Red Hat before the markets opened Thursday.

Credit Suisse dropped Red Hat to neutral from outperform and cut the value of Red Hat stock by more than 50 percent to $14.

Sun Trust Robinson Humphrey reduced Red Hat to neutral from buy.

JMP Securities downgraded Red Hat to market perform from market outperform.

Also Thursday, Soleil Securities slashed Red Hat’s stock price target to $11.50 from $19.

The stock sellout reflected the views of several analysts who said Oracle’s move threatened Red Hat’s primary revenue source. Several now speculate that Oracle will move to acquire Red Hat.

Terry Tillman, an analyst with Sun Trust Robinson Humphrey, called the Oracle move “more barbaric than imagined.”

Rumors that Oracle would move into Red Hat space have circulated for months, dating back to Red Hat’s acquisition in April of JBoss. JBoss is an open-source software developer for servers, a space dominated by proprietary products.

Oracle does support Linux through a partnership with Red Hat.

Oracle is attempting to “backdoor its way in to ongoing Red Hat updates, change the Red Hat logo, and resell/support it at prices over 50 percent lower to existing Red Hat customers, as well as future prospects," Tillman wrote, according to The Associated Press.

"Ironically, we believe Red Hat may well end up in the hands of Oracle following some period of sustained market cap erosion," Tillman said.

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