By Brenon Daly
As bargains go, Novell’s (NASDAQ:NOVL) valuation in the recently floated bid from a hedge fund is a bit like a ‘crazy Eddie’ discount. Earlier this week, Elliott Associates offered $5.75 for each of the roughly 350,000 shares for Novell. Altogether, the equity value totals about $2bn.
But the true cost of Novell is actually about half that amount because the company carries about $1bn in cash and short-term investments. (Don’t forget that some of that cash flowed from Novell’s good friends at Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), which handed over some $350m in cash several years ago and is still buying more licenses.) So, at the current valuation, what does the $1bn buy?
Perhaps the most revealing way to look at it is that Elliott (or any other buyer, for that matter) would get more than $600m in rock-steady maintenance and subscription revenue, meaning the bid values Novell at a paltry 1.6 times maintenance/subscription revenue. And let’s be honest, that’s the most attractive asset at Novell. The business actually grew in the just-completed fiscal year, while revenue from both licenses and services declined. (License revenue plummeted 38% in the previous fiscal year, and continued to slide in the most-recent quarter, which ended January 31.)
Novell has said only that it is reviewing the bid. (It is being advised by JP Morgan Securities, which also worked with Novell on its purchase of PlateSpin two years ago. At $205m in cash, that was the largest acquisition Novell had done in a half-decade.) Meanwhile, the market has indicated that it expects Novell to go for a bit more than Elliott’s ‘crazy Eddie’ discount price. Shares have traded above $6 each since Elliott revealed its $5.75-per-share bid, changing hands at $6.07 each in mid-afternoon trading on Thursday.