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Novell muddles through fiscal Q4

Revenues down, profits impenetrable

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Software maker Novell – which is in the process of selling itself to Attachmate and Microsoft for $2.2bn – reported its financial results for its fourth quarter of fiscal 2010 ended October 31. Rather than face a lot of pesky questions from Wall Street analysts, the top brass at the company ducked out and just pumped out a press release.

Novell didn't do too badly in Q4, all things considered, with sales only down 4.2 per cent to $206.5m. Software license sales were $31.3m, down a smidgen from the year-ago quarter. Maintenance and subscription sales were off 4.2 per cent, mirroring license declines, at $153.3m, and services revenues fell by 9.7 per cent to just under $22m. In the quarter, Novell booked $308m in non-cash tax benefits related to "certain net deferred tax assets," which would have been interesting to explain.

So while Novell only booked $22.1m in income from operations, it showed a $322.2m in net earnings. In the year-ago quarter, Novell posted $279m in impairment charges for goodwill and intangible assets related to a number of acquisitions, leading the company to book a $255.7m net loss in Q4 of fiscal 2009. If you look at non-GAAP income from operations, Novell was at $38.2m this quarter and $37m a year ago. (As a matter or principle, non-GAAP numbers are to be detested, as are unexplained benefits or huge charges that dwarf quarterly revenue.)

"I am pleased with our fourth quarter performance," said Ron Hovsepian, president and chief executive officer at Novell, in the statement. "We continue to see strong performance from our Linux business with invoicing for Linux, excluding Microsoft certificates, up over 40 per cent from the year ago period and the prior fiscal year. We also saw some stabilization in the collaboration solutions business with invoicing decreasing 3 per cent over the year ago period."

For all of fiscal 2010, Novell had $811.9m in revenues, down 5.8 per cent. Because of all of the benefits and impairments, Novell had a $378m net income on its books this year, compared to a $212.7m loss a year ago. These are silly numbers that do not reflect the current state of the Novell business.

Novell ended the quarter with $1.1bn in cash and equivalents as the quarter came to a close, which is one of the reasons why Attachmate wants to get its hands on Novell and can afford to acquire the distributor of NetWare, SUSE Linux, and other products.

In the fourth quarter, Novell booked $36.3m in Linux subscription and maintenance revenues, down 7 per cent. For the year, Linux revenues hit $144.4m, down 3.2 per cent. NetWare sales fell by 4.5 per cent, to $41.6m in Q4, and fell by 6.8 per cent for the full fiscal year, to $165.6m. ®

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