Is F5 a Value Play or a Growth Risk?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- As an unabashed cheerleader of network giant Cisco ( CSCO), liking the prospects of one of its chief rivals, F5 ( FFIV), has not always come easy.

Competition is one thing. However, as someone who constantly worries about growth stocks trading at high multiples, I can't help but think that at current levels, F5 just might present a considerable amount of value here. The only question being, is it worth the risk?

Wall Street has been burnt over the past five years betting precisely against growth stocks such as F5 -- names that include the likes of Amazon ( AMZN) and Salesforce.com ( CRM).

That and the fact that my recent bet against F5 backfired so terribly, it has caused me to want to look at the company from another angle. Call it insanity. But what I've discovered is that not only does the company have a promising future, but more impressively it has a competent management team filled with confidence.

The company continues to log quarterly performances that suggest that not only does it have its act together, but more importantly, it consistently demonstrates to investors that it has no problem growing into its valuation -- expensive or not. What's more, its recent earnings performance somewhat affirmed that its growth expectations have not yet reached the level of "too high" as previously perceived.

Even more impressive was the fact that the company's management didn't sidestep or appear to shy away from its previous projections of 20% growth over the long term. This is despite the company showing weakness in regions such as Europe and Asia.

If there are any concerns that remain in terms of F5's business, it has to be in the area of competition -- where in addition to Cisco, there are other powers such as Juniper ( JNPR), Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and Riverbed ( RVBD).

Be that as it may, competition has always been there and F5 has been performing well. However, each of these names shows similar symptoms in their recent earnings and it only takes one to make a drastic move to alter the competitive landscape. The most drastic move any of them could make would be to lower prices in hopes of securing market share or disrupting margins.

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