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Final Analysis of Novell’s Q1 Results and Consequences

Posted in Finance, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Ron Hovsepian at 7:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell cafe

Summary: More evidence that Novell suffers from the Microsoft deal, but the company’s CEO takes bonuses

ACCORDING TO “The Var Guy”, who has been in good touch with Novell for over a year, Novell is heading down.

Check out the one-year stock charts for Novell (NOVL) and Red Hat (RHT). Neither chart is particularly impressive, but the trends are unmistakable. As the economy went from bad to worse in calendar year 2008, Wall Street lost more and more faith in Novell. In stark contrast, sometime in late November 2008 — amid heightened credit crunch concerns — financial pundits started betting heavier and heavier on Red Hat shares.

The comments in Linux Today show that many GNU/Linux users are actually encouraged by Novell’s demise. Here is one response to Novell’s excuses:

Maybe the business world really does not want to do business with Novell. Maybe business customers really do think about the implications of Novell’s deal with Microsoft.

In addition to what we’ve already referenced, here are some more financial analyses:

One issue that we have looked at before is the excessive bonuses that Ron Hovsepian is receiving [1, 2, 3]. The following essay is dedicated to this problem.

What Novell Could Learn From HP About How to Treat Employees


[C]ontrast this with the recent announcements of layoffs at Massachusetts-based software vendor Novell. Earlier this month, they laid off approximately 100 employees due to a “global economic downturn.” I have to wonder how many of those jobs could have been saved if Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian had declined to accept the sum total of his $6.9 million compensation package last year.

I mean, it’s not as if he didn’t see the potential for layoffs coming. In a December 4, 2008, conference call with analysts he is quoted as saying, “I think we are just evaluating at this point any additional restructures or activities that may take place in 2009, and those would be largely dependent on the overall economic condition and its impact to our revenues, if any.”

In other words, the writing was on the wall late last year but he still grabbed his share of the pie.

Ron Hovsepian will find it hard to dodge criticism, which now comes from IDG as well. Financial News USA covered it also.

Ronald Hovsepian, the president and chief executive of networking software maker Novell Inc., received a compensation package valued at nearly $6.9 million, according to a proxy statement filed Wednesday.
The total was down more than 5 percent from Hovsepian’s 2007 compensation of nearly $7.3 million.Hovsepian, who has served as CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Novell since 2006, received a base salary of $912,214 and $2 million in cash incentive plan compensation, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.His perquisites totaled $137,014 and included $9,200 in 401(k) contributions from the company, $112,244 in deferred compensation matching contributions and $6,263 for financial planning.

What is he being rewarded for?

In other financial news, Novell’s CFO will present at Morgan Stanley’s 2009 Technology Conference.

Novell, Inc. (NASDAQ: NOVL) today announced that Dana Russell, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Novell, will present at the Morgan Stanley 2009 Technology Conference, March 2-4, 2009 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Russell’s presentation will begin at 2:20pm PST on Tuesday, March 3.

There was also a delay.

Company representatives of Novell Inc will be presenting at the 2009 Morgan Stanley Technology Conference today. The Company’s presentation is scheduled to begin at 17:20 ET.

Novell was also mentioned very briefly in the financial press under:

In its conversations last week, Novell confirmed that layoffs are coming, but it used cryptic terminology to ‘dress up’ the statement. Novell cannot operate at a loss forever. It can only delay the inevitable.

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  1. JohnD said,

    March 5, 2009 at 9:08 am


    Well any decent analyst will try to gauge public opinion of a company in addition to it financial results. So every BN support can give themselves a good pat on the back – it looks like your message is getting out to the media at least.
    But I hate to burst the bubble, the average user doesn’t care about FOSS ideology anymore then they care about MS dirty tactics. You can show the average person a preconfigured Linux machine that does everything their Windows machine can do and they’d probably buy it. Give them one with a default install and start talking about kernel version, package dependency, repositories, compiling source tar balls – their eyes will glaze over and they’ll ask for Windows.
    I’m not sure where the posters are getting their info when they say Novell is operating at a loss – the balance sheet says net income. Operating margin has doubled, liabilities decreased, equity increased. Overall number are down from the previous year, but the have net income for the first quarter as opposed to a loss in the 3rd quarter.
    Their numbers aren’t stellar, but the company is in a better position then GM. Given their cash on hand over 600mil – they could operate for at least 6 months with no income at all – I wish my company was in such a “bad” position.

  2. JohnD said,

    March 5, 2009 at 9:17 am


    I’d also like to point out that CEO’s taking big bonus’ at the expense of the little guy is a world wide issue, not just a Novell issue. Look at the news and Morgan Stanley who took bailout money and made several hundred millionaires before they were bought by Citi. Refer to the bonehead who dropped 86 grand on a stinking rug. This is not to say that I agree with the bonus RH got, I think it was too high given current circumstances. That being said – a CEO who doubles a company’s operating margin should be entitled to some compensation. My personal opinion is that his compensation should be tied more closely with quarterly and yearly results.
    I think CEO bonus issues should be handled by Boycott Big Business.com.

  3. JohnD said,

    March 5, 2009 at 9:21 am


    Wasn’t there a post about on here about Novell trying to inflate their stock price by repurchasing shares? My take was that it was just another “trick” by big bad Novell – well here’s a tid bit from a RedHat financial statement:
    Total cash,
    cash equivalents and investments as of November 30, 2008 were $1.1 billion
    after retiring $285 million of convertible debentures and repurchasing 2
    million shares of common stock.
    Hmm looks like Novell isn’t the only company trying to reduce it’s debt and increase share value.
    When a company increases share value does it help the little guy/gal on the street or the company execs?

  4. JohnD said,

    March 5, 2009 at 9:31 am


    Wait here’s some tid bits from the Var Guy quoted in the post. This is what he had to say in Nov 08
    “Frankly, The VAR Guy doesn’t have the answers to those questions. He does know that Novell has been growing faster than the overall Linux market. And Lenovo recently introduced servers with Novell SUSE Linux rather than Red Hat Enterprise Linux.”
    “Still, Novell’s close alignment with Microsoft — initially criticized by The VAR Guy — seems to be paying dividends as Novell finds itself in more and more corporate data centers. Now, Microsoft solutions providers could give Novell another boost in the IT channel.”
    And some tidbits from the post linked above:
    SUSE Linux sales continue to climb. And acquisitions like PlateSpin provide promising revenue opportunities for Novell.
    Oh, and Red Hat did land at the top of The Open Source 50, which tracks the most promising open source partner programs. (Although Novell landed in the No. 3 spot…)
    So we’re looking at the number 1 and 3 seeds in the Open Source 50 – paints a different picture now doesn’t it?

  5. aeshna23 said,

    March 5, 2009 at 1:43 pm


    “When a company increases share value does it help the little guy/gal on the street or the company execs?”

    All owners of the stock–whether a company exec or the owner of a single share–experience the same percentage increase in value of their stock. Stock repurchases are often the best way a company can help its shareholders, since capital gains are treated favourably compared to dividends (in the United States).

  6. JohnD said,

    March 5, 2009 at 2:11 pm


    Thanks aeshna23, but my question was a rhetorical one (I’m married to a CPA).
    I was trying to point out that the teflon boys at RedHat boosted their share price using stock buyback just like Novell. Yet Novell was panned for doing it whereas for RedHat is was seen as a positive.

  7. Dan O'Brian said,

    March 5, 2009 at 7:18 pm


    JohnD: as you’ve already discovered, these BN guys have double standards.

    If Red Hat kills babies, Roy will find a way to spin it as Good For Linux. But if Novell tries to save babies, whether they succeed or not, Roy will spin it as an attempt to destroy FLOSS.

  8. Jose_X said,

    March 6, 2009 at 12:42 am


    The financial pictures are always a little muddy. There tends to be overshoot and lag/lead as people fight for the best deals on stock. Also, we would be assuming accuracy of public information.

    JohnD covered a lot of points, but from what I have read indirectly (I haven’t looked at NOVL SEC reports), it seems Novell’s Linux growth depends a lot on Microsoft, and that after an initial boost, Microsoft is not coming through (at least not recently). This might be a negotiating tactic on Microsoft’s part or might be indicative of a larger rejection of Novell and/or of Microsoft’s coupon selling.

    [Dan O'Brian] >> as you’ve already discovered, these BN guys have double standards.

    There is some bias and mistakes are made. I see the same from those that defend Microsoft and/or Novell. [I'm speaking generally, of course.]

    Boycottnovell puts out info with reader comments to help all readers make up their own mind on a per topic basis. Some postings are better researched than others.

    [As an aside, Nokia seems to be doing a great job with Qt: http://www.linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2009-03-05-001-35-OS-EM&tbovrmode=1 ]

  9. Jose_X said,

    March 6, 2009 at 12:56 am


    Qt development has been improving quickly recently. I don’t use it, but some claim QtCreator is very good http://labs.trolltech.com/blogs/category/qtcreator/ . You can download it with the Qt libraries and use it for commercial development for no charge. You can get the source code to everything from the git repositories. Nokia also wants to work with Linux distro makers to make sure it’s as easy as pie (press a button) to install this totally free and powerful developer platform on each participating distro.

    Roy, in the future, perhaps any mention of risky and monopolist supporting mono should be followed with a word or ten on (or links to) Qt/QtCreator.

  10. Dan O'Brian said,

    March 6, 2009 at 8:26 am


    Jose_X: Since you don’t seem to understand the difference, Qt/QtCreator are not alternatives to Mono.

    Qt is a widget toolkit (which is an alternative to Gtk+ or even Windows.Forms, but not an alternative to Mono).

    QtCreator is an alternative to Glade or Microsoft’s widget layout tool (whatever it’s called). Once again, not an alternative to Mono.

    You guys haven’t the foggiest clue what you’re talking about most of the time.

  11. JohnD said,

    March 6, 2009 at 3:23 pm


    A little more context to the financial side of things:
    “More than 10% of the stocks in the S&P 500 trade for less than $5. And with the market continuing to fall, more big-name firms could hit ‘penny stock’ status.”

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