As it did in each of the seven preceding quarters, the company beat analysts' estimates for revenue and earnings. It's an uncommon streak for a stock in any sector, much less in technology, where networking vendors have cited service provider challenges and headwinds in Europe for weak sales and downbeat guidance.
F5, which specializes in technology that optimizes the delivery of network-based applications, reported revenue for the fiscal fourth quarter (ended Sept. 30) of $465.3 million, which was up 6% sequentially and 18% year over year. Equally impressive was net income of $94 million ($1.26 per share), which was up 18% sequentially and 23% year over year.
The stock was trading up $5.23, or 4.5%, at $122.35 around 12:00 p.m. EDT Thursday. Investors have rewarded the company's results by bidding up shares 35% so far this year and 47% over the past 12 months. This compares to the S&P 500, which is up 7.5% year to date and 13% over the past year.
Given the company's earnings success and the stock's strong performance, it was surprising to learn that longtime CEO John McAdam will be retiring at the end of the company's 2015 fiscal year, which finishes on Sept. 30, 2015.
In a phone interview, McAdam explained his decision by saying, "It was just time." Later he added, "After doing this for so long, I want to spend more time with my family."
McAdam made it clear that despite his announced retirement, F5's priorities are not going to change. He said:
"Looking forward, I am confident that all of the company-specific drivers that propelled our growth in the fourth quarter and fiscal 2014 will continue to have a positive impact on our business throughout 2015."
When pressed for more detail on why he was so confident, he said the company had secured a number of "large deals that were greater than $500,000 and a significant rebound in deals that were greater than $1 million." When asked for a geographic breakdowns, he responded that "they were mostly in North America."
This is important because the Americas represents F5's largest market, generating 59% of total revenue in the latest quarter. That is two percentage points higher than the previous quarter. That market is now growing at a 16% rate year over year. And with enterprise customers contributing to 67% of fiscal fourth-quarter revenue, F5 is likely stealing market share from some of its fiercest rivals.
While discussing the strong performance in enterprise sales, McAdam was quick to point out the effect of "follow-on product sales in major accounts," which he said were generated from consulting revenue. He said these "follow-on" products were "replacing other vendors' products."
When asked for specifics about where the company is gaining the most traction, McAdam said that enterprises, service providers and government customers are replacing Cisco's (CSCO) - Get Cisco Systems, Inc. Report ACE (application control engine) products with his company's "Good, Better, Best bundling options," providing a huge boost to fiscal fourth-quarter product revenue, which grew 20% year over year.
He said he sees no signs of things slowing and pointed to the company's recent acquisitions, including Defense.Net, a deal that was closed earlier this year. This is one example of the investments F5 has made in data center and security operation centers to ensure growth in cloud-based opportunities.
When asked why fiscal first-quarter revenue guidance implied year-over-year growth of 13% to 15%, the slowest growth rate since September 2013, McAdam said the cautious outlook was "due to seasonality."
With the Federal Reserve having ended quantitative easing, corporations may pull their purse strings a little tighter. So McAdam's cautiousness seems justified. That's certainly something to keep an eye on, especially with such an impressive steak on the line.
At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.
TheStreet Ratings team rates F5 NETWORKS INC as a Buy with a ratings score of A-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate F5 NETWORKS INC (FFIV) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, notable return on equity, growth in earnings per share and good cash flow from operations. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company is trading at a premium valuation based on our review of its current price compared to such things as earnings and book value."
You can view the full analysis from the report here: FFIV Ratings Report