Barron's has gone a bridge too far this time. The venerable investing magazine this week calls Red Hat
The article takes the logic that led to Sun Microsystems
And on the surface, the argument makes sense. After all, if the Java programming language and a slew of fringe benefits are worth $7.4 billion to Larry Ellison, then one of the biggest pieces of the Linux puzzle should be worth a lot to someone, too. A buyout would not only add a solidly profitable growth element to any acquirer, but also keep the competition at arm's length from the same assets.
But therein lies the rub. Sun was and is a floundering mess of hardware and software, incapable of deciding what it wants to be when it grows up. Red Hat is in the business of profitable growth and cash flow generation, with a single-minded focus on open-source software and the support services that go with it.
Barron's does raise the issue of deal price, where Red Hat trades at an already lofty P/E of about 45 times trailing earnings. But its conclusion remains a cheery "couldn't agree more" when an analyst states that the buyout scenario -- and a few others -- is starting to look likely.
I couldn't disagree more.
Too expensive, and there's little incentive for Red Hat's board to approve a sellout deal. The Linux field is hot, no question about it. But I'd be less surprised to see IBM or an ultrarich and very acquisitive Cisco