Red Hat's stock just hit a 15-year high

Jim Whitehurst Red Hat CEOBiz Carson/Business InsiderJim Whitehurst Red Hat CEO

Red Hat reported its first quarter earning Thursday night which beat expectations on both the top and bottom line.

But there were some strange numbers that caused investors to freak at first, dropping the stock about 2% in after-hours trading.

That confusion was cleared up after executives talked to Wall Street analysts on the quarterly conference call, sending the stock soaring when the market opened Friday.

The stock even briefly hit a high of $US81.44, although it’s now trading at just above $US79, still historically high. It hasn’t traded near $US80 since the heady days of the internet bubble back in 2000, when it hit $US135 and traded at over $US100 for a couple of months.

But in 2015, the stock has been on a tear again, since the company has now delivered nine straight quarters of beats on both revenue and profits.

Red Hat reported earnings per share of of $US0.44, analysts expected $US0.41.

It reported sales of $US481 million (up 14%, or 22% in constant currency). That beat expectations of $US473 million by $US8 million, however that $US8 million included one of the weird numbers.

Red Hat changed its accounting practices for a new line of business where it sells its OpenStack cloud operating to services providers. That change added a one-time surprise $US5 million of revenue. Even with the extra $US5 million, Red Hat beat sales estimates by $US3 million.

However, investors were scared on Thursday night by another metric: softer than expected billings, the amount of money the company has under contract but hasn’t collected yet.

That number was a bit of a ruse. Red Hat had a fantastic quarter selling to the government, which signs shorter-term contracts than other businesses, management explained. That made it look like billings had fallen off, when they hadn’t.

Red Hat, the biggest, most profitable company that sells support subscriptions for free and open source software (namely Linux), also reported that all of its top 30 deals in the quarter were for over $US1 million and that it had two deals for over $US10 million.

Red Hat is the first and only open source company to hit $US1 billion in revenues in 2012 and is now firmly marching toward $US2 billion. Management reaffirmed full-year revenue guidance of $US1.99 billion to $US2.02 billion (the Street expects $US1.99 billion), and increased profit guidance by 2 cents, now expecting $US1.81 to $US1.84 (the Street expects $US1.81).

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