Rise and fall of VA Linux

Key words: LNUX, 697% in a single trading day, Red Hat IPO, Dot-com boom era, VA Software, SourceForge, Geeknet
VA Linux

On December 9, 1999, a software company VA Linux (LNUX) went public. The IPO was priced at $30, after an original range of just $11 to $13.
The stock opened at $299 and peaked at $320. The close price was $239.25, which is a gain of 697% in a single trading day.
This was the biggest first-day gain ever for an initial public stock offering in the U.S.
The previous record was the 606% opening-day surge by theglobe.com in November 1998.

LNUX used Credit Suisse First Boston to facilitate the distribution of shares.
The demand for shares greatly exceeded the supply and it was the first time an IPO has ever finished the regular session at above $200 a share on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

LNUX, a leading provider of integrated Linux-based solutions, offered computers with a combined open source software and Intel-based hardware.
The company had an impressive list of customers including IBM, Cisco Systems, eToys and Intel as a major shareholder.

It is worth to say the Linux market was so hot those days helping to set off the Linux stock boom:

-Red Hat went public on August 11, 1999. IPO was priced at $14 and rose 272% on its first day of trading.
-Six industry giants, including Compaq and Oracle rushed to take minority stakes in Red Hat
-Oracle and most other major database providers released native versions for Linux
-The 1999 Industry Achievement Award went to Linus Torvalds who wrote his own operating system Linux
-The most stunning development in 1999 was that Linux began to pose a significant threat to Microsoft Windows

Founded in 1993 as VA Research, the company was aiming to compete with other hardware providers like Dell, IBM, HP, Sun etc.

Anyway, what was the company’s business worth? According to the financial markets, the company went from small capitalization territory to the large cap list.
VA Linux sold 5.06 million shares in its IPO.
That represents 11.5 percent of the company’s 44.1 million shares outstanding which equals $13.1 billion capitalization at $299 close price as of 09 December 1999.

VA Linux had $17.7 million in sales while another traditional UNIX work system leader Silicon Graphics had sales of $2.7 billion and capitalization about $2 billion.

Of cause, it is easy to comment if you know the history but even in 1999, it was very easy to say the stock was very speculative: VA Linux Systems had a loss of $14.5 million on total revenue of only $17.7 million in the latest fiscal year ended July 31.
This actually means P/E was negative but Price/Sales showed the stock was totally overvalued.

By December, 8, 2000, one year later, LNUX was around $8.45. In short order, the company had gone from being the most popular open source software company to one of the greatest failures.

LNUX stock chart

On December 5, 2001, VA Linux Systems officially dropped the Linux from its name becoming VA Software, California-based software vendor, stopped selling hardware based on the open-source operating system and focused on selling licenses for SourceForge.

In 2007, VA Software folded its software division in favor of doing business entirely on the Web deriving revenue from ad sales.

On November 4, 2009 SourceForge announced that it has changed its name to Geeknet, Inc. to more accurately reflect the company’s business and the growing market it serves.

In June, 2015 GameStop agreed to acquire Geeknet in a deal valued at $140 million.

Geeknet stock chart

Unbelievable and fantastic story from the dot-com boom era.


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4 thoughts on “Rise and fall of VA Linux

  1. The stock was way overpriced but a lot of bad business decisions by the CEO Larry Augustin didn\’t help. Larry was a really nice guy but someone else should have steering the company.