NetApp: Too Late for Cisco or Oracle?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- At one point, big data giant NetApp ( NTAP) was trading at such depressed levels I considered it the top acquisition candidate on Wall Street and suggested that either Cisco ( CSCO) or Oracle ( ORCL) should make a play for it.

My argument was based on the premise that as businesses begin to fully embrace the concept of "the cloud," both Oracle and Cisco will want to further their one-stop-shop strategies and make data storage a critical component within their portfolio of services -- particularly Oracle which already specializes in data analytics.

So from the standpoint of synergy, it makes perfect sense to acquire a company that specializes in data storage. NetApp has not only been growing its market share, but has done so consistently by making data an area of focus and establishing an approach to storage architecture that appeals to a broad range of customers.

What's more, at the time I offered that opinion, the stock was making a new 52-week low. Fortunately or unfortunately, the company has since been performing and executing a bit too well. As a result, it just might have priced itself out of M&A contention.

Recenlty, in its first-quarter fiscal 2013 earnings report, NetApp announced net income of $64 million or 17 cents per share on revenue of $1.445 billion -- arriving in line with its previously stated guidance. On a non-GAAP basis, EPS arrived at $156 million or 42 cents per share. The company beat street expectation on earnings while meeting analysts' revenue forecasts. The company's president and CEO Tom Georgens offered this:
NetApp produced non-GAAP earnings per share above and revenue in line with our prior guidance. In Q1, we announced further innovations in Data ONTAPĀ® 8.1 that will enable customers to achieve an agile data infrastructure environment to cope with their dynamic business requirements. We continue to deliver on multiple fronts, advancing our technology and partnerships. With our best-of-breed partnering strategy and ongoing innovation-led solutions, we enable our customers to scale their business without limits.

Without question, NetApp along with EMC ( EMC) are the two dominant names in the critical data storage market that is always a top priority within enterprise IT. Though these two giants have traded neck and neck over the past couple of years, however, it would appear that until recently investors had made up their minds regarding which of the two presents the better value.

For NetApp, since reaching a high on the year of $46.80 on April 3, the stock was down as much as 40% -- remarkably this comes on the heels of the company not only having reported better than expected third-quarter earnings results, but also offering an outlook in line with Wall Street expectations.

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