Novell, Like Microsoft, Starts Trading Debt

Posted in Finance, Microsoft, Novell at 4:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The money trap

Summary: Novell is buying back debt, so what’s the trap?

SOME weeks ago Microsoft made it official that it was borrowing money. Both Novell and Microsoft have accounting fraud in their not-so-distant past [1, 2], so to trust what they say regarding finance is quite a gamble [pun not intended].

Well, Novell has just unleashed this press release, whose interpretation is as follows

Novell to buy back $121.6M of debt


Open-source network software company Novell Inc. says that it is launching a cash tender offer to spend $121.67 million to purchase back some debt.

The Waltham-based company says it will buy back its 0.50 percent convertible senior debentures due 2024 for $1,000 per $1,000 principal amount of the debentures, plus any accrued and unpaid interest up to July 15, 2009, the day after the offer ends.

The struggling Northern Rock is likely to be doing the same thing. From 2 days ago in the news:

Northern Rock may buy back debt

The British government is working on a plan to reduce nationalized bank Northern Rock (OTCPK:NHRKF)’s debt, sources close to the discussions said.


In turn, the move may help persuade the European Commission that the $4.9 billion capital injection is not state aid.

The Commission’s ruling on the strategy could come as early this week, The Times said.

According to this, debt buybacks are intended to reduce debt and “The big draw back to debt buybacks, of course, is that a company sacrifices liquidity to reduce its leverage, and some companies may be better off holding onto cash or using it in other ways.

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  1. Charles Oliver said,

    June 18, 2009 at 7:08 am


    Debt buyback is a fairly common practise. It might actually indicate that Novell’s financial health is improving (it can afford to buy back the debt) and it wants to ensure it is better placed in the future, not being subject to the interest that would have been payable on the debt.

    The Linux Action Show reported Novell made $16 million in the last quarter just in Linux sales (what percentage of this was MS vouchers, I don’t know) up from $2 million. This seems indicative of a company who are doing better generally this quarter and thus would be in a position to buy back debt.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Novell’s revenue fell more sharply than investors had anticipated. Some Novell products are simply reclassified as “Linux”, e.g. OES2. It’s the ‘buckets game’ as far as I can tell.

    Charles Oliver Reply:


    Seems to indicate that profits were up but revenue was down. So I guess the layoffs and other cuts in expenditure helped profits.

    I would assume that revenue being down was the bigger story. If that’s a trend, it may potentially be an issue in the future.

    I tend to agree with some of the other comments, though maybe not for the reasons they are stating. Your highly researched, well written pieces – like the roundup you did a while ago of an old MS court case pulling out some really good quotes were brilliant. I’d like to see lower output but more focused pieces on Boycott Novell. The kind of things people will want to link to.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Seems to indicate that profits were up but revenue was down. So I guess the layoffs and other cuts in expenditure helped profits.

    Yes, cancellation of Brainshare too would have saved a few millions. But Novell signed no major contracts (and trust me, I watch the news carefully). It will be interesting to look at the breakdown and see where Novell cut about $30 million in expenses in 12 months. I haven’t done that.

    I might add that I saw a comment in ComputerWorld (maybe just a rumour) about layoffs that Novell is not obliged to report to shareholders because of their small scale. In fact, Novell never bothered to inform anyone about the SUSE layoffs in Germany. Maybe it was acknowledged after whispers had spread too widely.

    Charles Oliver Reply:

    That’s maybe then the interesting story. How has Novell increased profit in the face of dropping revenue.

    In the current financial climate many companies are experiencing a drop in revenue. Many are losing staff and tightening belts (even in ways that could effect future profitability). From an entirely business perspective, ignoring social harm, it would be nice to know what Novell are up to.

    Surely novell have to list employee numbers somewhere. Is SUSE a separate enterprise owned by Novell or simply a division of Novell?

    Another question I have about SUSE is why they seem to be succeeding in the enterprise desktop market. What are they offering that Red Hat or Ubuntu aren’t?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I’ve just found the comment I was referring to (from anonymous):

    Although Roy doesn’t do him self any favors in the way he reports the news at Novell there are many truths in what he says.

    There are big job cuts coming and for those of you that didn’t notice the job cuts at Novell have been happening for months but are being executed in such a way that reporting them publicly is not required.

    I don’t think they are “cooking the books” as they have always been above board financially.

    Two things that Roy has missed though, is that this year Novell’s earning will most likely drop below the $900 million level for the first time in a long time and they are selling of pieces of the business behind the scenes like the news that the New Zealand arm of the business will soon be sold to internal staff.

    Stay posted, Roy may not be totally right, but where there is smoke there is fire.

    Charles Oliver Reply:

    I realise you must get a lot of anonymous comments. To my mind they are effectively useless to bolster a piece. Their only use seems to be in directing future investigation and finding named sources.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    They can be presented for what they are — rumours. Caution is needed, sure…

    It is said that a lot of Madoff- and Enron-like corruptions are never exposed until it’s too late because reporters/publishers are too afraid for their careers (libel law) and authorities tend not to listen, unless you have lobbyists or some power over government.

    Remember how many whistle blowers got ignored. Only after the fact was it realised, but what good is it then?

    By the way, rumours that were passed to me regarding Novell layoffs were from a reliable source, so I think we ought to dig deeper. We don’t have compelling proof.

    Charles Oliver Reply:

    Sure but with an anonymous comment, even if you know the source, your readers cannot weigh the legitimacy of the comment.

    In the same way, if you talk about others passing themselves off as you (as mentioned below) the only real defence is to say you will not post elsewhere, as you’ve done. Even that defence relies on people believing in your likelihood of being truthful and this is to some extent also controlled by the number of unsubstantiated rumours you post. A rumour can of itself be interesting but if it become the meat and grist of site then that site will look lesser.

    There is almost always supporting evidence, though I agree in the case of Enron it was extremely well hidden.

    Thomas Williams Reply:

    Well, Novell said they have 3900 employees at the end of April:

    This is the same as they reported for the end of January: http://seekingalpha.com/article/123039-novell-inc-f1q09-qtr-end-01-31-09-earnings-call-transcript?page=2

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, I’m aware of that. I noticed it at the time.

    Charles Oliver Reply:

    @Thomas Williams

    Thanks for those links. It seems strange considering the number of blogs I’ve read from former Novell staff who’ve recently been laid off.

    The last time I saw a seekingalpha link it was to opinion that Linux would eat the ARM market in netbooks and that ARM would become more dominant in netbooks.

    Looking at this one (and salivating) I can understand why


    but it might be worth waiting for the dual core ARM chips next year.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    SeekingAlpha is a place where people just submit news, usually financial analysis. But the above are Earning Calls that they routinely publish. So the source is Novell. It’s what they tell shareholders.

    Charles Oliver Reply:

    Thanks for the info on that site.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    It’s worth quizzing Novell about NZ.

  2. JohnD said,

    June 18, 2009 at 7:49 am


    I’m not sure how you can draw a comparison between M$ and Novell on this one. M$ is going into debt, Novell is working it’s way OUT of debt.
    If Novell has actually reduced it’s costs enough to show a profit in the face of reduced revenues, it’s makes perfect sense to start reducing debt. Holding on to the debt will only increase it’s financial burden, not lessen it.
    Given that Novell has close to a billion in cash on hand, reducing that cash by approx 10% is hardly Earth shattering, nor a sign of impending doom.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Novell has had problems with the NASDAQ (and the bank) even before the Microsoft deal. We’ll see what happens.

    Sabayon User (Sabayon == Gentoo, kthx) Reply:

    We’ll see what happens.

    For some reason I read “spin” there instead of “see”. I guess I need glasses.

    By the way, whatever happened to those thousands of layoffs you knew were going to happen at Novell. You know, the ones your “informant” told you about and you couldn’t stop talking about for months. Any news on that front?

  3. eet said,

    June 18, 2009 at 7:52 am


    Well, Roy sees what he wants to see.

  4. Jimmy Deluca said,

    June 18, 2009 at 7:55 am


    Haven’t you guys figured out yet that Roy is so desperate to try and make Novell look bad that he’ll say/publish *anything*?

    And I mean anything.

    Just look at his “article” from a few days ago where he posted an IRC log of some random bloke joining and saying that his boss is forcing him to write a glowing review of Mono, yet does not disclose who he is, who he works for, what project he works on, etc. He gave absolutely no details at all.

    No facts that can be independently verified.

    No doubt it’s all a ploy by Roy.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Oh, look. Another man who lives near Novell’s headquarters, just like “Dan O’Brian”.

    Are you with Novell?

    eet Reply:

    God, the idiocy.

    Go back into your hole, Roy.

    Marcus Koze Reply:

    @Jimmy Deluca: I’m not here to take anybody’s side, but that guy seemed to have deliberately enter the chat under anonimousity, if he was really in the situation he described there (and not just some joker making fun of people), he had all the reasons not to disclose anything about his true identity or job / employer, he was seeking advice from what i saw… Seeking an advice about a true criminal decision from the supposed boss who told him to make claims that’d make the micromoft brand shine & free/open-source world look like second-class software (which isn’t so by any extend, from where i stand it’s exactly 180 degrees in the oposite direction)

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    We’ll need to take a look at Novell’s numbers again. They had a terrible quarter in February and for no apparent reason (no contracts or new products) they suddenly reported earnings in Q2. Unless they sack employees without announcing it, I have no idea where all those savings came from.

    JohnD Reply:

    You should really learn more about accounting before you start posting opinions about a company’s financial statements.
    Deferred revenue can kick in at anytime – it depends on when the “item” is actually used or “consumed” i.e. Gift Cards are a perfect example.
    Staff layoff seldom result in immediate cost savings due to severance packages etc.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Deferred revenue can kick in at anytime – it depends on when the “item” is actually used or “consumed” i.e. Gift Cards are a perfect example.

    I think it was Bruce Lowry (or Dana) who said something about one particular major deal being just like weeks/months away from being included in a report. So all these coupon (patent certificate) deals Microsoft and Novell sign don’t take long to be included in reports. Novell and Microsoft failed to sign major deals in the past 6 months or so.

    Staff layoff seldom result in immediate cost savings due to severance packages etc.

    You’re only justifying my suspicions by pointing that out.

  5. eet said,

    June 18, 2009 at 8:00 am


    God, the idiocy. Go back into you cave, Roy.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 18, 2009 at 8:06 am


    How come all the Novell crowd showed up in this post 4 hours after it had been published with all the comments fitting a window of less than one hour? Is someone driving this?

    eet Reply:

    You moron, how self-centred has one to be to think oneself is SO important!

    ‘The Novell-crowd’; my ass! You character-assasin! Trying to discredite every critic as a paid minion! I’ve just about had it with you up to here, you know!

    You are a discgrace to the whole community, you ****head!

    Charles Oliver Reply:

    You aren’t required to view this site you know (unless it’s in your job description or something).

    I personally enjoy this site. I find it informative.

    oiaohm Reply:

    It was a fair question. This number of replies normally take longer to develop.

    It is abnormal. Could be a freak event. Abnormal events a person is fair to question.

    Funny enough eet if anyone is a character-assasin its you. Presuming and getting offended make you look bad. Eet learn to be a better person.

    eet Reply:

    ‘Abnormal’! If it was comments that agree with him, he wouldn’t find it abnormal. But he will just have to start getting used to it; as the Ubuntu-thing draws more attention towards this site, more readers are drawn and it’s starting to represent the true balance of opinion on the topic. And these are NOT in favor of Roy’s POV!

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    He has done that for years. He chases down other critics of Novell.

    eet Reply:

    My special friend, you are pretty unique in your idiocy and and win the title ‘most unsympathetic Linux user of all times’ hands down! Don’t worry, you have got my _exclusive_ attention. There is no other Linux-website that could call itself comparably stupid and dangerous.

    eet Reply:

    As long as nobody took notice, the Schlechtowitzes (German for ‘bad jokes’) of our community went unnoticed by most, but thanks to your ramapge on the Ubuntu forums you will soon find yourself at the center of the attention of a LOT of disgruntled Linux users who don’t want YOU to be perceived as something that is representative for the community.

    Charles Oliver Reply:

    >but thanks to your ramapge on the Ubuntu forums <

    Do you have a link for that, eet?

    I remember reading one of the posts here where Roy said he would confine himself to writing on this site because people were passing themselves off as him.

    eet Reply:

    I meant ‘you’ as in plural. It was one of his shills.

    Which – of course – Roy painted as a smear campaign against himself. Roy seems now to have pulled the entire article as the link has vanished from the recent-posts list.

    Charles Oliver Reply:

    Roy can afford to pay people to do this?

    Does the evidence point one way more than another?

    I meant the link to the Ubuntu Forums. Roy can’t pull that (unless he’s better connected than is apparent).

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    People who oppose Mono sometimes end up in our IRC channel, not the other way around.

    eet Reply:

    Nah, Roy has no money; AFAIK he dropped out of college after his PhD thesis was rejected and he is (has been for some time) unemployed.

    My mistake, I’ve found the discussion about Roy’s shill (wrong word? I’m no native speaker, sorry) here: http://boycottnovell.com/2009/06/01/banning-opposition-to-mono/

    eet Reply:

    Come to think of it, who PAYS to have this website up and running? Microsoft perhaps, in order to discredit the Linux users as crazies?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Some funny lies from you, “eet”.

    I submitted my thesis in September 2007 and having passed my viva I submitted the corrections exactly 8 days ago. Doing my Ph.D. slowly does not mean “dropping out”.

    eet Reply:

    By Jove! It took more than 1 1/2 years to correct your thesis?!? How can you afford that?!?

    BTW, do you think anyone will take you on after seeing this smudgy website?

    Charles Oliver Reply:

    Thanks for that link eet. It still doesn’t link to the original Ubuntu Forums thread unfortunately.

    Yeah a shill is someone employed to spread disinformation. An acolyte might be a better description for someone following Roy through some kind of conviction but it does have religious overtones and this is normally the way people go when they are attempting to discredit without proof (Linux/Windows Zealots etc.).

    It’s always interesting to know who pays for things and that includes this site, Groklaw, IDC research etc.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    The current server is run by a friend who may be starting a hosting business in San Diego. There are no other expenses.

    Charles Oliver Reply:

    OK. I found the thread. Yeah looks like an attempt to jump in on the argument a little late.


    That thread seems to go off topic from about this point:


    but this seems to get it back on track a bit


    Then it goes back into soapbox territory from both sides of the mono divide.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Thanks. Gnote is already gaining momentum with Fedora, so Ubuntu might (hopefully) follow suit due to popular demand.

  7. Dave said,

    June 18, 2009 at 8:17 am


    Might be a huge conspiricy Roy, after all isn’t everything ?

    eet Reply:

    Yeees; me too, I’m living “!near’ SUSE’s headquarters”, as Roy once put it – in fact only 500 kilometers away from it! ;) But in Germany, so that’s close enough for him to make a point out of it… God, this guy is such a discgrace for a Linux users! Should we require some kind of entry-exam before anyone is allowed to use Linux?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    “Dave” is again a nymshift of “Darryl”, which is considered a Microsoft shill in other Linux sites where he is banned.

    eet Reply:

    You are a nymshift, too, Mr Schlechtowitz.

    (Sorry wrong thread before.)

  8. eet said,

    June 18, 2009 at 8:24 am


    You are a nymshift, too, Mr Schlechtowitz.

  9. Anon said,

    June 18, 2009 at 12:51 pm


    eet, I take it you’ve never actually been in a Ph.D. program, at least not in a physical science.

  10. Finalzone said,

    June 18, 2009 at 1:58 pm


    Looks like shills are full attack mode today. The fact they constantly bash Roy must mean the trust is closer so defamation is in order. Should these shills don’t like this site, why are they here?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    They also attack from other sites, to which no attention is given.

    Anon Reply:

    Maybe they don’t have a life. Maybe they are getting paid to troll. Who knows? It’s not like anyone is forcing them to come to this site.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    A good number of them posts from the vicinity of S.u.S.E. or Waltham.

    Sabayon User (Sabayon == Gentoo, kthx) Reply:

    From where, the Federal Republic of Germany?

    JohnD Reply:

    While I don’t agree with the approach that some here take, I willing to guess the reason they are here is to combat what they see is FUD against Novell. I have noticed on this site times when they break out the party tunes when Novell seems to take a financial hit, yet they will criticize Novell for laying off employees with their next breath.
    While I seldom agree with Roy’s interpretation of events, I will give him credit for taking the time to consolidate a lot of web based data.
    I’m a PCLP in addition to being a CNE and I visit anti Notes sites to help dispel FUD there too.
    Opinions are like a$$holes – everyone has one.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    The mainstream press, like press releases which drive it (or companies that own it), tends to emphasise just one side of the story. We, on the other hand, bring balance. Shall you find mistakes, please point them out as we have the advantage of working in groups.

    JohnD Reply:

    I don’t post that often on this site, but when there is something I take issue with, I will make a post. Most of this site is simply opinion and/or discussion so it’s hard to find “mistakes”.
    True balance can only be found when looking at a situation in an impartial manner. Novell press releases will always have a full positive spin – your posts seem (to me at least) to take the full negative spin. You could look at that as balancing, but I don’t.
    Hey that’s just my opinion.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I think my posts on Saturday are very sincerely and balanced. I also give credit to Novell where it’s deserved.

    eet Reply:

    You must be joking! You and balanced!

  11. JohnD said,

    June 19, 2009 at 8:31 am


    I’ve never doubted that you sincerely believe what you’re posting.
    I do find it hard to view your posts as balanced when you repeatedly use words or phrases that can be considered derogatory such as “Unleashed” or “bucket’s game”. The title of this post is even misleading. In the first paragraph you’re equating Novell’s buyback of debt to M$ getting a loan – they are not the same thing.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    They are both cases of financing/accounting around debt. Cash-heavy companies like Cisco would not do this.

    JohnD Reply:

    True both cases are financial in nature, but one is trying to get out of debt while the other is getting into debt – big difference between the two.
    The title “Novell, like Microsoft, begins trading debt” leads the reader to believe that both companies are doing the same thing, which they are not.
    You’re right that a cash heavy company wouldn’t do be doing what Novell or MS is doing – because they wouldn’t have to. M$ never had to go into debt before they started paying dividends. Novell raised cash by going into debt so they could effect corporate changes.
    The fact that they are paying the debt off early is a good sign, not a bad one.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    The title “Novell, like Microsoft, begins trading debt” leads the reader to believe…

    It’s not intended to lead to pre/misconceptions.

    On another level, it could be argued that Microsoft and Novell have in common the dealing with debt.

    The headline remains correct.

  12. JohnD said,

    June 19, 2009 at 10:00 am


    Actually it’s not.
    “trading debt” is ambiguous at best, but when you add in “like Microsoft” you imply that Novell is doing the same thing that Microsoft is doing which it isn’t.
    A less prejudicial and more balanced Title would be – “Novell begins paying down debt, while Microsoft goes into debt”
    As the person writing the post and creating the title it has a different meaning when you read it. Anyone who comes across the post doesn’t yet have a reference for the title so it takes on different meaning for the reader.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    A less prejudicial and more balanced Title would be…

    Agreed. But it is not incorrect as it is.

  13. JohnD said,

    June 19, 2009 at 10:36 am


    As always Roy, you are entitled to your opinion, no matter how flawed I may think it is.

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