F5 Networks, Inc. (FFIV) had some good news for investors this morning, as it announced results that beat analyst expectations. The company also raised guidance going forward. In pre-market trading, shares were up $3.69 (4%) to $90.
This is the latest in a series of announcements that have boosted the spirits of a slumping networking sector, which has been spooked by a government slowdown and the prospect of cheaper gear based on Software Defined Networking (SDN) technology.
The Seattle-based company said that government business was up 10%, reinforcing a theme seen in VMware’s earnings. Many networking players, who sell lots of hardware and software to the government, had seen federal business slump in the last two years due to budget cuts and future budget uncertainty. It seems that the governments can only hold off for so long before having to buy technology again.
The networking gear marker reported revenue of $395.3 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2013, up 7 percent from $370.3 million in the prior quarter and 9 percent from $362.6 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2012.
After subtracting special charges including stock compenstation, net income for the fourth quarter was $99.2 million ($1.26 per share), compared to $88.7 million ($1.12 per diluted share) in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012.
For fiscal year 2013, revenue was $1.48 billion, up 8 percent from $1.38 billion in fiscal year 2012. Non-GAAP net income was $362.9 million ($4.59 per share) versus $348.6 million ($4.37 per diluted share) in fiscal year 2012.
Company officials said a refresh of its product line, including the release of the BIG-IP 5000 and 7000 series, as well as growth in security products as a result of its acquisition of Versafe, contributed to growing business.
The company set a revenue target of $390 million to $400 million and an earnings target of .81 to .84 per share for the first quarter of fiscal 2014, which ends Dec. 31.
The news was received positively by many Wall St. Analysts. It was strong enough to lead MK analyst Michael Genovese to reiterate a “Buy” rating and increase his price target.
“The company put up strong sequential performance in Enterprise and Government, including Federal,” wrote Genovese in a research report this morning. He also sees upside in the telco sector, which had been slumping for F5, writing, “… management sounds incrementally upbeat on new pipeline opportunities related to LTE and Telco Data Center.“
MKM raised its price target to $108 from $100, with F5 currrently trading around $90.
Simon Leopold, with Raymond James, also liked the quarter but was a bit more cautious.
“A beat and raise quarter coupled with cautious sentiment helps, yet guidance for lower operating margin in F1H14 will restrain appreciation,” wrote Leopold. “Lumpiness remains a risk, but a broadening application set for datacenters along with the product refresh keeps F5 on an encouraging trajectory.
Ah yes, the dreaded lumpiness.
Leopold also noted that the decent earnings give F5 more time to make a transition to more software-based networks. Investors have had lots of concerns about the trend to moving toward SDN products because it threatens the turf of more traditional networking hardware vendors such as F5.