Red Hat rumors: a reheat or something more?

Contact: Brenon Daly

When VMware reached for SpringSource earlier this month, the $420m pairing represented the largest open source transaction in a year and a half. Now, the market is buzzing with rumors about another blockbuster open source deal, one that would be more than 10 times the size of VMware-SpringSource. Several sources have indicated that interest in Red Hat has been heating up lately, with Oracle and IBM popping up again as suitors.

The rumors, of course, are nothing new. We have been speculating about a possible pairing between Red Hat and IBM or Oracle for almost three years. (When Oracle launched its own support of Linux back in 2006, we wondered if it wasn’t a ‘beat ’em down and take ’em out’ strategy from the coldhearted Larry Ellison.) And when the rumblings surfaced again earlier this year, we did some back-of-the-envelope thinking about a bid from Oracle. Honestly, though, we think Big Blue is a more likely buyer for Red Hat.

While the speculation stays largely the same, however, there is one change: the price of Red Hat keeps going up. Since we noted the latest reports of Oracle’s interest in late March, shares of Red Hat have tacked on about one-quarter in value. The company currently sports a market capitalization of $4.2bn; however, its cash holdings lower the effective purchase price to about $3.5bn. Red Hat is just now wrapping its fiscal second quarter, and has already said it expects revenue to be about $179m for the period. The vendor will likely report results in about a month.