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Red Hat Missed Guidance Isn't That Bad

Bargain hunters and the few short sellers covering positions could push the price up over $52 by the end of the month. Looking at the chart, I expect short-term resistance near $55. Round numbers often attract like a price magnet and repel, causing a bounce.

Expect a lot of volume to trade near $50 a share Thursday, but also be prepared for bargain hunters to start positions under $49 as an entry.

Red Hat doesn't have debt and while the price-to-earnings multiple is still high compared to the S&P 500 (SPY), the company simply didn't miss by much. In fact, it would not surprise me in the least if the company "pushed" some future sales into this quarter to break the billion-dollar mark. It's good for employee morale and really doesn't take much to make it happen.

If you are looking for Wednesday's drop to signal a buying opportunity, you are likely going to find Thursday or opening on Friday to be near the sweet spot.

At the same time, there is no hurry jumping on board with Red Hat. Stocks dumping as a result of lowered guidance usually take a full two good earnings quarters to recover. I believe the odds favor a faster than normal recovery.

Operating margins, while already low compared to Microsoft and Oracle appear closer to IBM (IBM) and CA Technologies (CA). (See the table below.)

Without a strong dollar, operating margins may improve, but don't count on Europe for any favors. (Read my article, ORCL: Buy on Dips as it Heads for the Cloud.)

For an idea what a disappointing earnings report gap down usually looks like, take a look at Dell's (DELL) chart. Dell disappointed and traded from $15 down to an intraday low of $12.31.

Also, take close note of the next few days after earnings. Use your software to look at charts from the past few quarters and review the ones that gapped down the next day. The high placed a couple of days after the gap down in Dell is now resistance. This is a classic pattern. (Read my article, Surviving Dell in an Apple World.)

The main difference between Dell and Red Hat is this: Red is still clearly executing, but just slightly missed on guidance in a quarter that they reported a billion in yearly revenue. All in all the earnings release is a good one and with Red Hat Storage coming online shortly, I expect the storm clouds to pass quickly.

From the conference call on Wednesday, CFO Charles Peters:

...On a year-over-year basis, we had 16% billings growth in U.S. dollars and 20% in constant currency; revenue growth of 19% in U.S. dollars or 22% in constant currency; and more importantly, subscription revenue growth of 21% in U.S. dollars and 24% in constant currency. We also had non-GAAP operating income growth of 22% and operating cash flow growth of 38%.

55% of bookings came from the Americas, 25% from EMEA and 20% -- excuse me, and 20% from Asia Pacific.

The top 30 deals set a Q1 record for deals over $1 million. In the quarter, we had 25 deals of $1 million or greater, nearly double from the prior year first quarter. Two deals were in excess of $5 million. And cross-selling was strong with more than 40% of the deals, including a middleware component and 3 being stand-alone middleware deals.

What's the best play with Red Hat? There should be a very attractive trade coming up Thursday or and or Friday. Near the end of the day if still trading lower, sell out of the money puts. Fear of continued losses tends to push portfolio insurance prices up dramatically, while at the same time the stock should bottom.

It's not one to get greedy with -- hold on for a few days and as the implied volatility falls (hopefully with a nice dead cat bounce) exit out with a quick hit and run for profits. Otherwise for longer term investors, the best play is to wait until we are closer to the next earnings release for an entry.

Stock quotes in this article: RHT, MSFT, ORCL, DELL, CA, IBM, CRM, INTU, VMW 
At the time of publication, the author holds no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

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