The Day Ahead: Red Hat steps up profit push

Red Hat is well on its way to being profitable in 2001, and Adobe continues to impress with the success of its publishing tools

With 'P2P', or path to profitability, all the rage these days, Red Hat picked a good time to accelerate its profit goals.

On a conference call with analysts, Red Hat officials said the company is well on its way to being profitable in 2001, nearly a year ahead of schedule. "The operating loss will decrease for the balance of 2000 until we reach profitability in 2001," said Harold Covert, chief financial officer.

Red Hat had said it would be profitable in 2002. Analysts reckoned Red Hat would post losses in the three cents a share to four cents a share range for the four quarters of fiscal 2001.

For a company that could barely keep revenue and earnings straight a few quarters ago, Red Hat is growing up quickly. Red Hat's first quarter was a turning point.

The Linux 'leader' kicked its fiscal year off with a bang after market close Thursday. Red Hat reported a first quarter operating loss of $2.5m (£1.65m), or two cents a share. That loss figure adjusts for non-cash, merger, acquisition and other expenses.

Earnings tracking firm First Call predicted a loss of four cents a share in the quarter.

Revenue was up $16m in the quarter, up 95 percent compared to $8.2m a year ago, and up 22 percent from fourth quarter sales of $13.1m. Because of a seasonal slowdown, Covert said revenue growth in the second quarter will be up a mere 75 percent. The third and fourth quarter sales figures will approach Red Hat's 100 percent growth goal.

Red Hat's business improvement isn't currently reflected in its stock. Before Red Hat accomplished anything, shares soared. Now, the company is executing, but shares aren't doing much.

But it may not be long before Red Hat wins over Wall Street again. Aside from the occasional Microsoft antitrust bump, Red Hat indicated a series of big wins is on the way.

Officials said Red Hat has design wins with Cisco Systems, Iomega, Hewlett-Packard, Qwest Communications and others. Red Hat also said it will announce enterprise wins "in the next couple months" through its partnership with Dell. The company also plans to announce a customer win with a Big Three automaker.

Couple Red Hat customer wins with popularity gains of the Linux operating system, deals with Oracle and Intel's support, and the company could be on to big things. Maybe Red Hat will become a Wall Street darling again.

Adobe continues to impress

Adobe continues to impress Wall Street. After market close Thursday, Adobe chimed in with second quarter earnings of $65.8m, or 52 cents a share. Excluding one-time items, the company reported earnings of 51 cents a share to top First Call estimates by three pennies.

The company reported record second quarter revenue of $300.1m, compared to $245.9m a year ago. The results easily topped the most optimistic estimates on Wall Street. Wit Capital projected earnings of 49 cents a share and sales of $298m.

And analysts think the best is yet to come.

Adobe continues to gain as demand for Web publishing tools surges. Adobe also has a strong second half of product rollouts. New versions of Adobe's popular PhotoShop, Illustrator and Acrobat are all due. Adobe is focusing on free fronts, e-paper, Web publishing and print publishing, which is going digital. More than 50 percent of Adobe's sales are Web related.

The progress is so good that Adobe felt obligated to bump up its financial targets. The company confirmed revenue growth of 25 percent for the second half. The new gross margin target is 92 percent. Analysts had projected growth of 20 percent in the second half.

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