Back-of-the-envelope thinking on Red Hat-Oracle

Contact: Brenon Daly

If Oracle was seriously planning a bid for Red Hat (and we have our doubts about such a pairing), then Larry Ellison had better be prepared to reach deeper into his pocket. Following Red Hat’s solid fiscal fourth-quarter report, shares of the Linux giant jumped 17% to $17.60 on Thursday. That added about a half-billion dollars to Red Hat’s price tag, with the company now sporting a fully diluted equity value of some $3.5bn.

Looking back at the nine US public companies that Oracle has acquired this decade, we would note that Oracle has paid an average premium of 14% above the previous day’s closing price at the target company. (Note: We excluded the two-year-long saga around PeopleSoft.) If we apply that premium, which we acknowledge is crudely calculated, to Red Hat, the company’s equity value swells to $4bn, or about $21 per share. That’s essentially where Red Hat shares changed hands in August, before Wall Street imploded.

On the other side of the table, Red Hat recently cleaned up its balance sheet, which certainly makes it a more palatable target. (Again, we don’t think the company is in play, much less took the steps to catch Oracle’s eye. More so, that it was just good fiscal practice.) Specifically, Red Hat paid off all of its debt and finished its fiscal year, which ended last month, with $663m in cash and short-term investments. That would be a nice ‘rebate’ for any potential buyer, in the unlikely event that Ellison or anyone else reaches for Red Hat.