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NetApp Preps Post-Recession Plan

SUNNYVALE, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- NetApp (NTAP - Get Report) investors will be closely monitoring the firm's analyst day Thursday for signs of upside as IT managers force open their corporate coffers.

The New York City analyst meeting comes at a critical time for NetApp. The company's shares have risen more than 77% this year, buoyed by a slowly improving economy and the company's status as one of the best-positioned firms in the tech sector.

The storage maker lately has impressed analysts, including RBC Capital Markets and Goldman Sachs.

Earlier this week Broadpoint AmTech reiterated its NetApp Buy rating, citing a wealth of upside potential. "The company offers one of the highest growth profiles in the entire technology industry," wrote analyst Brian Marshall, in a note released Monday, adding that the firm has averaged a 28% growth rate since 2004. "This compares favorably to its closest peer, EMC (EMC - Get Report), which experienced an average growth rate of 19% over the same period," he added.

With a pro forma gross margin above 60%, NetApp is insulated against the falling cost of storage, and has side-stepped the worst of the recession. The company posted solid numbers in its recent first-quarter results. NetApp's revenue dipped 4% compared to the prior year's quarter, but comfortably beat analysts' estimates.

With some uncertainty still hanging over IT budgets, however, NetApp is still subject to the vagaries of the broader economy, according to Goldman Sachs. Despite clinching a place on Goldman's 'Conviction Buy' list, the analyst firm sees spending as NetApp's biggest risk, potentially delaying or preventing a return to double-digit revenue growth and 16% operating margin.

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