In the era of aggressive shareholder activists, it’s not much fun to be a technology company with lots of cash and slowing growth. Just ask Riverbed Technology (RVBD), the once high-flying Wide Area Network (WAN) optimization company that is now being looked over by shareholder activists and private equity dealmakers.
Earlier in the year, hedge fund and shareholder Elliot Management got involved, first offering Riverberbed $19 per share and then later raising that to Riverbed $21 per share, but that deal has been rejected by Riverbed management. But the share price continues below that offer price and the barking shareholder activists might be getting more impatient. Is it time to drum up some more bids?
It Looks that way. Riverbed, which just announced lackluster earnings growth and outlook, might now be more willing to talk. The company has already hired one of those “vaunted strategic advisers” to “explore options,” but there are also signals of more urgency.
Michael Genovese, Managing Director with MKM Partners, released a note this morning saying that Riverbed management is coming around to the idea that they may have to look at other options.
“We spoke with Chairman and CEO Jerry Kennelly last night after the conference call,” wrote Genovese. “He seems much more willing to consider alternative strategic options now that Riverbed’s internal operating forecasts have come down.”
Riverbed announced that third quarter sales 4 sales were up 4% year-over-year (y/y) to $277 million. However, the important WAN Optimization (WAN-OPT) segment, where Riverbed is a leader, is stalled out. It accounts for 71% of Riverbed’s revenue, yet it grew only 2% y/y and 3% sequentially (q/q). The Performance Management segment increased 21% y/y and 14% q/q.
On the bright side, government sales are bouncing back strongly, growing 42% q/q and 10% y/y to $53 million. The company gave revenue guidance for the fourth quarter of $285M-$290M, and EPS guidance $0.31-$0.33.
Genovese thinks that Riverbed is likely worth more as a private company. “We think Riverbed is worth more as a private company because in an LBO scenario it can lever up, cut costs and improve ROE to its new owners,” he writes in his note.
In the meantime, investors will need to be patient. The stock traded this morning at $18.59, down a few pennies. It’s well off it’s lows, however, as the 52-week high on the stock was $22.76 and the low was $13.77.