Online Boards Blow Up in Novell's Trajectory

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By Cory Johnson
Staff Reporter

The zippy days of online hyping of

Iomega

(IOM)

may be a thing of the past. But these are still heady days of Internet stock excitement.

Chat boards percolate with nervous tension as investors comb the firmament for an investment home run. But often these chat boards become the site where investors commiserate in disastrous moments.

Take

Novell

(NOVL)

. The company unleashed a spate of bad news on Wednesday, including a surprising quarterly loss and the dismissal of 18% of its workforce. On the

Silicon Investor

site alone, users posted 214 Novell messages in just 48 hours following Tuesday's close.

Novell, based in Provo, Utah, could hardly sell water to a house on fire. Its prospects stink and the stock price keeps cratering. What are the posters saying?

"Don't underestimate it's hue

sic installed base of Netware," writes one optimistic poster called

Bald Man from Mars

. "So all we do is wait until it trades below its true value, and we go in and scoooooop it up with both hands!!!"

Bald Man has been cheering for a Novell revival, hoping against hope and providing a foil for all the naysayers. Novell, which only knows from bad news, has become a natural home for him. "When there is bad news, and it does not go down, we are looking at a very potentially explosive situation," he wrote in another post. "Evidently the market makers have all the inventories they want, so what else are they going to do, except to push this stock back higher. Very optimistic about its future!!!"

Posts like this inspire flaming responses, and in short time online instigators like

TokyoMex

were firing back. "You'll be lucky to see $5 tomorrow," he wrote. "***DOS IS DEAD*** Anyone noticed what the market has been doing to companies that do not meet earnings estimates? Now we all know the truth... Novell not only comes in a RED package. It is hemorrhaging."

Off line, TokyoMex says that the boards of Novell have been active, but says posters go particularly bonkers when a company raises expectations and then fails to meet them. "In April the company said that they will be in the black," he says. "Also, three days ago on

America Online

, some analysts sent out mail saying NOVL will have an earnings surprise, so a lot of people bought on that news. Now it's all madness."

Bald Man from Mars is still hanging in there. "The market maker

sic has all the chance to lower this dud to zero at the opening and did not do it," he writes. "Why??? Either, they have all the inventories they want already or if they lower it dramatically in the opening, some big guy is going to come in and gobble it up. This one looks very bullish to me..."

Wallace Rivers

isn't buying it, even though he admits to owning some Novell shares. "Bald man, I am long (it appears as if you might be as well) but some of your ideas are pretty farfetched," he posts. "Yea, this thing will take off - probably with a trajectory similar to the Challenger! UNBELIEVABLE! This company used to be

MSFT's

feared rival - now look at this inept mess!"

And

Kory B

is no more forgiving. "I cannot believe that some of you guys are still in this thing," he posted on Thursday. "This baby is going the way of the trollip, get out while the getting is good. You should think of today as a "grace" period. Once the institutions start selling --- GOOOOOOOOD BYE!"

Perhaps these boards are the place for investors to scream bloody murder and confess their sin; a Catholic Church for investors who may have bought the stock at 20 and now go online to post their transgressions and seek atonement with not just a few unsympathetic ears. And so maybe, in the end, the post of

Jack L. Dlugach

sums it up best: "God, gimme the arsenic!!!"