Linux Star Continues to Fall Over Street

Even Linux is not immune from the gravitational pull of the recent slump gripping Internet stocks.

Linux software vendor Caldera Systems (CALD) made its ticker debut late Tuesday morning at $26 per share, or 86 percent above the $14 offer price for 5 million shares. By early afternoon, shares had dipped to 24 7/8.

Of course, a one-day gain of more than 80 percent — assuming CALD holds in that range hardly can be called a misfire. But when you compare Caldera’s opening-day performance with that of previous Linux IPOs, it has to be judged a disappointment.

The first Linux stock to hit the street came last August from Red Hat (RHAT), a competitor of Caldera’s with more than three times the revenue. Red Hat ended its first day of trading 272 percent above the offer price.

In November, Cobalt Networks (COBT), a maker of Linux-based server appliances, easily eclipsed Red Hat’s opening-day gain, posting a 482 percent run-up from its $22 offer price to finish at 128 1/8.

On Dec. 8, Linux community network Andover.Net (ANDN) posted a first-day gain of 252 percent. One day later, VA Linux (LNUX) blew even Cobalt Networks out of the water with a 698 percent first-day gain, the best ever for any IPO.

While its inability to match those debuts may be disappointing, Caldera investors better hope the stock also fails to emulate its Linux ticker predecessors’ grim aftermarket performance.

Red Hat was trading early Tuesday afternoon at 57 7/8, still a healthy 122 percent above its split-adjusted first-day close of 22 1/32, but a whopping 60 percent below its all-time high closing price of 143 1/8 last Dec. 9.

Cobalt Networks hit as high as $172 per share last Nov. 30, or 34 percent above its first-day closing price. By Tuesday afternoon, shares of COBT were selling at 69. That’s 60 percent off their all-time high and 46 percent below their first-day closing price.

Meanwhile, Andover.Net, which is being bought by VA Linux, was trading at 63 3/8, or 55 percent below its first-day close of 28-1/4.

And VA Linux, it of the record-setting debut, was trading Tuesday afternoon at 81 3/16, or 66 percent below the opening day closing price of 239-1/4.

Perhaps as much as the market’s current slump, the aftermarket woes of the initial wave of Linux IPOs may have sobered up investors and brought an end to the Linux moonshot.

“Caldera may run. A very respectable Linux company with strong revenue. The recent market slump hurt its performance today but we could be looking at a buying opportunity. I like a lot of the Linux companies at current levels.” Discuss it here

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