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Hey, Novell: No News is Bad News

By Anders Bylund – Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 11:57AM

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Stonewall customers and investors for too long, and they may go elsewhere.

The hits just keep coming for enterprise software vendor Novell (Nasdaq: NOVL). And by hits, I mean the kind you'd receive about the head and neck with a blunt implement.

Novell's $199 million in third-quarter revenue is a far cry from the $205 million that formed the low end of management's guidance for the period. The company did manage to keep earnings within a rounding error of last year's take, at $0.04 per share, but demand for Novell's software is falling off the white cliffs of Dover.

Management knows exactly why, too. This is not the economy's fault, nor a weak product lineup. Customers are simply wary of signing any significant contracts with Novell until they know that the company will be around to support them. Novell rejected a $5.75-per-share private equity bid from early March as too low, but it kept the door open for buyout discussions. Nothing has happened since then.

When pressed on the issue during last night's earnings call, Novell treasurer Rob Kain waved it away: "As soon as the Board has reached a conclusion, we will make a public statement on it." This is the second quarterly report since the failed buyout offer, and we're all still in the dark.

To Novell's credit, investors seem to have plenty of patience for the process. Share prices have wavered around the original buyout price, give or take about 10%. That's a much higher level than where the stock was trading before this drama started. Still, I'd like to remind CEO Ron Hovsepian and his team that not every play for a higher bid works out as planned.

Sure, storage specialist 3PAR (NYSE: PAR) is now getting a staggering 67% more than originally expected from either Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) or Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), but that's the exception, not the rule.

Take-Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO) was a hot commodity for a while in 2008, but Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS) refused to overpay for the game publisher. Take-Two is worth about one-third of EA's bid today. Yahoo! is rowing an equally heavy boat, mostly underwater, after the famed Microhoo deal failed to meet Big Y's standards. If Novell's board lets the same thing happen here, there will be shareholder lawsuits aplenty over fiduciary duties and whatnot.

Will we hear anything about the deal talks before Novell's customer hesitance turns into a revenue hemorrhage? Only time will tell. In the meantime, use the comments below to discuss whether shareholders' patience will be rewarded or punished for long-suffering loyalty.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Take-Two Interactive Software is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Electronic Arts is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

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Stocks Mentioned

HP Inc. Stock Quote
HP Inc.
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Dell Technologies Inc. Stock Quote
Dell Technologies Inc.
Electronic Arts Inc. Stock Quote
Electronic Arts Inc.
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Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. Stock Quote
Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc.
$120.73 (-0.54%) $0.65
PAR Technology Corporation Stock Quote
PAR Technology Corporation
$29.89 (-4.66%) $-1.46

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