After posting earnings per share of $102.42 on Thursday, Seattle-based F5’s shares rebounded a bit in the aftermarket on Friday to $106.61 per share. By contrast, F5’s 52-week high is $136.11.
Those prices make F5 an attractive takeover target due its $1.2 billion in cash and lack of debt, writes RBC Research analyst Mark Sue in a report issued Thursday. Sue writes that “external investors are starting to sniff around F5’s low multiple and strong cash generation,” and that he wouldn’t short the stock.
“If anything, we see a leveraged re-cap, possible privatization, or even a management buyout as increasing possibilities,” he writes.
Sue repeated other analysts’ concerns that the ADC market is reaching maturity. Market leader F5 competes in ADCs and load balancing with companies including A10 Networks, Avi Networks, and Kemp Technologies.
F5 contends that its security offerings will be a boon to the company’s bottom line, but Sue notes that security is a crowded field with many entrenched vendors — a few being Check Point, Cisco, Citrix, FireEye, Fortinet, Juniper, Palo Alto Networks, and Radware — and more than 300 startups.
It’s not the first time that F5 Networks has faced scrutiny from analysts. In September, Raymond James analyst Simon Leopold said that F5’s fortunes were mixed due to enterprises migrating applications to the cloud.