Last week shares of Red Hat (RHT) - Get Red Hat, Inc. Reportwere obliterated after the company reported a disappointing third quarter. On Dec. 21, Red Hat reported third-quarter fiscal 2017 earnings of 61 cents per share, 3 cents better than the consensus estimate. The 3-cent beat came from a lower-than-expected tax rate.
On CNBC's "Mad Money With Jim Cramer," Cramer interviewed Red Hat's Chief Executive Officer Jim Whitehurst. Whitehurst tied to reassure viewers that billings can be lumpy and there was no need to panic.
Revenue rose 17.5% to $615.3 million vs. the $618.46 million estimate. Subscription revenue was up 19% to $543 million. Subscription revenue was 88% of total revenue.
After the results were announced, the stock took a dive. Billings of $679 million were up just 8.7% vs. the consensus estimate of $713 million, up 15%.
Whitehurst explained to Cramer that two large government deals worth about $20 million slipped into the fourth quarter. In addition, two large customers choose not to pay upfront, which took another $27 million out of billings. If the deals closed on time, billings would have been up 16%.
The company also announced that Chief Financial Officer Frank Calderoni would step down in late January.
Despite the messy quarter, Whitehurst anticipated those delayed deals would eventually close. Whitehurst also explained that Calderoni was destined to be a chief executive officer of a public company, so it shouldn't be a surprise he is stepping down.
While Whitehurst's comments to Cramer were reassuring, based on the company's guidance, analysts took down their billings estimates for fiscal 2018. In fact, analysts are now looking for 2018 billings growth of just 10.5% vs. the previous estimate of 13.5%.
Open Stack is Red Hat's standard platform used to build scalable cloud computing environments. OpenShift is the company's Platform-as-a-Service offering.
While I'm confident that Red Hat can continue to produce double-digit revenue growth, I believe billings growth is slowing and that will keep the stock rangebound.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.