Last week, Brocade reported disappointing second-quarter earnings, and its stock price of about $8 is hovering near its 52-week low of $7.40. But CEO Lloyd Carney enthused about its upcoming acquisition of the WiFi company Ruckus Wireless as a way to broaden the business beyond its storage roots.
Although most analysts are recommending holds on the stock, investors may not be patient forever as the company transitions to more software-defined networking (SDN) technologies and 5G.
One strategy for pivoting a company without Wall Street breathing down its neck? Go private.
High-profile tech companies that have gone this route include Riverbed and Dell. And if Brocade’s stock happens to dip further, it’s feasible that the company could become a tempting target for private equity.
“You have seen a handful of mature technology companies go private so that they can refocus on growth,” says SDxCentral analyst Scott Raynovich. “It’s not a bad strategy, because being in the public markets challenges the company’s ability to focus on the long term.”
“That’s highly speculative,” counters analyst Matthew Robison with Wunderlich Securities. “You could say that about any company that could generate cash and support the financing that’s required to go private.”
“You can assume they are looking at all the options,” says Robison. “I couldn’t speak to the price at which [going private] would happen. It’s an arithmetic process.”
Brocade does have $1.4 billion in cash, and it is profitable. It’s just not growing very quickly.
“I think there’s some degree of impatience,” says Robison. “This has not been a growth stock company for many years.”
Srini Nandury, an analyst with Summit Research, says, “The company has been rumored to be on the chopping block or going private for a very long time. It is possible. But I don’t know if going private is going to help them that much. Go private – then what?”
The logic of going private to move aggressively into SDN and 5G might backfire, depending on who ends up in control. A private equity firm could milk the company’s profits and split up the assets. That would be an ironic outcome, considering Brocade will soon be acquiring Ruckus and its WiFi portfolio. (Brocade expects to close the deal by July 31.)
Asked for its reaction to this story, a spokesperson for Brocade wrote: “As a policy, Brocade doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation.”