Despite beating Wall Street's earnings per share estimates in all four reporting periods is fiscal 2015, shares of the enterprise security software specialist last year plummeted 25.68%, grossly underperforming the 0.73% decline in the S&P 500 (SPX) index and the 11.86% gain in the iShares North American Tech-Software ETF (IGV) - Get Report .
With the company's stock -- at around $94 per share -- trading near two-year lows, investors are eager to learn whether the Seattle-based firm, which was once a Wall Street favorite, can rebound in 2016. But declining estimates for both the just-ended quarter and fiscal year, which ends in September, don't imply confidence.
For the quarter that ended in December, analysts expect F5 Networks to earn $1.60 a share on revenue of $485.62 million, translating to growth of 3% and 4.9%, respectively. For the full year, earnings are projected to be $7.02 on revenue of $2.05 billion, marking respective increases of 6% and 6.8%.
F5, which competes with the likes of Juniper Networks (JNPR) - Get Report and Citrix Systems (CTXS) - Get Report , has grown to become the largest seller of application delivery controllers -- technology that helps companies deliver and optimize network-based applications. But concerns about F5's growth outlook in its core market have emerged.
In its fiscal fourth-quarter, for instance, while it did beat Wall Street's earnings target, which extended its streak of quarterly beats to twelve, F5's revenue results missed analysts' estimates for the second time in four reporting periods. Plus, the company then issued an outlook for the just-ended quarter that was below a consensus for both revenue and profits.
And it certainly hasn't helped that in December, CEO Manuel Rivelo resigned from the company. Rivelo served as CEO for only five months. While the company appears to be in good hands with long-time CEO John McAdam back at the helm, tons of damage has already been done. F5 stock is down almost 30% from near an all-time high of $135.20.
The good news, however, is that cybersecurity expansion, which has been part of the company's decade-long growth strategy, remains a strong growth industry. Strategic partnerships F5 has forged with the likes Cisco Systems (CSCO) - Get Report , Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Report and VMware (VMW) - Get Report , are designed to help it diversify into other high-growth areas like the cloud and software-defined networking.
At the same time, however, competition from companies like Check Point Software (CHKP) - Get Report and Palo Alto Networks (PANW) - Get Report in the realm of cybersecurity remains fierce. F5 relies heavily on the security hardware/software business to grow its revenue. With both F5's revenue and profits having fallen from high double-digit percentage rates to mid-single digits, it's tough to expect these shares -- starting with Wednesday's results -- to rebound towards their 52-week high.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.