hosts its analyst meeting on Thursday, with the networking specialist detail positive catalysts for its stock to the sell-side community.
And there would seem to be more than a few reasons to be bullish, given that shares of F5 have climbed 50% during the last month, boosted by the gear maker's strong fourth-quarter results. Brian White, an analyst at Ticonderoga Securities, won't take much convincing. He thinks the recent run-up is a prelude to more gains.
"We believe the
analysts meeting will be upbeat and drill down into the strong secular trends that we believe will continue to benefit the company," he explained, in a note released on Monday. "F5 is a major beneficiary of the build out of more flexible, next-generation data centers that require innovative networking gear, further putting to rest concerns that the company is a niche player with a limited addressable market."
Wall Street is already optimistic about F5 with 22 of the 35 analysts covering the stock at strong buy (7) or buy (15), although the stock, which trades at a forward price-to-earnings multiple of 24X based on a fiscal 2012 estimate for a profit of $4.41 a share, is bumping up against the median 12-month price target of $110.
Although dwarfed by much bigger rivals, F5 looks set to tap into major networking trends such as high-speed 4G networks, according to Ticonderoga's White, as well as reaping the benefits of ever-increasing volumes of IP traffic.
F5, which competes with
, sells hardware for improving application delivery across networks, and also touts storage products and SSL VPN technology.
After feeling the effects of
earlier this year, F5 posted strong fourth-quarter numbers earlier this month, delivering a 24% year-over-year revenue increase amid strong product sales.
The broader networking sector, however, continues to feel the impact of a tough economy. Rival Juniper, for example, was forced to lower its expectations for its
. Cisco, slowly emerging from a major restructuring effort, reports its fiscal first-quarter results next week amidst
about corporate IT budgets.
"F5's outperformance this earnings season was very clear," noted Ticonderoga's White, adding that the company expects at least 20% sales growth in fiscal 2012. "F5 is best positioned to benefit from secular trends in the data center
space that include consolidation, virtualization and the move towards cloud computing."
"We expect F5 Networks to walk through its addressable market opportunity
on Thursday, unveil an updated product roadmap
and discuss progress with partnerships," explained White. The company, he added, is also likely to provide an update on the upgrade of its TMOS operating system.
F5 CEO John McAdam also pointed to
in China's growing Web sector during an interview with
earlier this year, a subject that's also likely to feature during the firm's analyst event.
Shares of F5 dipped $2.19, or 2.03%, to $105.44 on Monday. Year-to-date, the stock has lost nearly 20%, bottoming out at a 52-week low of $69.01 on Aug. 23.
Written by James Rogers in New York
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