Why the Red Hat Drop Is a Buying Opportunity

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Red Hat (RHT) shares were tumbling Friday on a knee-jerk reaction to the company's lighter-than-expected fiscal 2015 guidance given during its fourth-quarter earnings call Thursday evening. Nevertheless, Wall Street analysts remain steadfastly in favor of the company, maintaining a consensus "outperform" view on the leading provider of open source solutions.

Digging beneath the headline numbers opens up a more bullish view on the stock as it displays a company with solid growth and financial standing, and who merely took a conservative approach to guidance.

For the latest quarter, total deferred revenue, or the business that Red Hat has already booked and billed, came in at solid double-digit growth of 14% year-over-year. Deferred revenue serves as a good read on the existing, renewable base of the business.

Meanwhile, short-term deployed revenue was more than $950 million, another solid figure, which is expected to turn into revenue over the next 12 months as it moves off the balance sheet and onto the income statement with the delivery of services.

Another noteworthy indicator was Red Hat's latest operating cash flow results. Fourth-quarter operating cash flow jumped 35% year-over-year to $185 million, while full fiscal-year operating cash flow increased 16% to $541 million. This comes as Red Hat reported more than 70 deals of over $1 million in the fourth quarter.

"We're seeing really strong interest around particularly OpenStack and OpenShift, which are our Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service offerings," Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst told TheStreet on Friday. "We're really starting to see people put those into production this year, which is great to see."

"We're not making a call on whether IT spending is improving or not, but certainly IT spending on cloud and cloud-related technology is growing very, very rapidly and we're obviously a beneficiary of that -- we are certainly one of the best-positioned companies around cloud and it shows in the numbers," he said.

The fixation on the company's full-year projections were the result of the reaction among many surprised investors who'd expected that the company's far better-than-expected, 24% jump in fiscal fourth-quarter billings would be matched by higher revenue projections. But these disappointed investors may be reassured by the fact that forming direct comparisons between the two for the heavily subscription-reliant Red Hat would have presented challenges for the company because of the volatile nature of the billings measurement, broadly speaking.

The company didn't take its revenue guidance higher in the wake of the double-digit billings growth simply because billings figures can bounce around a lot even when the deals themselves remain the same, given the varying commitment plans that customers may opt for. Commitments can range from one year, to three years, to upfront payments, or even payments over time, for instance.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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