Curiouser and curiouser! Despite reporting relatively healthier third-quarter earnings last night, Juniper Networks (Nasdaq: JNPR ) got no love from Wall Street. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The numbers showed a company riding the same turnaround wave everyone else is enjoying. Sales dropped 13% year over year, but fattened up 5% from the second quarter, landing at $824 million. Pro forma earnings landed at $0.23 per share; that figure was down 28% from the year-ago quarter, but it gained 21% sequentially.
Juniper's stock jumped a couple of percent in after-hours trading, only to fall hard the morning after. That's despite an analyst upgrade, several upward price target revisions on the stock, and a generally positive morning for the market, buoyed by impressive results from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) and Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) . You can't even blame Juniper's slump on a sector effect: Archrivals Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU ) are beating the market today.
And management comments were positive, too. The clouds around the future are clearing up, giving Juniper a better picture of what's coming. Telecom providers like Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) are stepping up their orders for network equipment. Internet data traffic should double every two years by Juniper's estimation (and Cisco might concur), mostly thanks to online video and mobile broadband conectivity.
The company's brand-new distribution deal with IBM (NYSE: IBM ) is off to the races, and CEO Kevin Johnson believes that "long-term it's very key, we're making good progress, and I think you will see continued steps forward there. It is a key partnership for us."
Juniper even did its emergency cost-cutting correctly, scaling down its sales and marketing while actually increasing headcount in the all-important R&D side of the business. If you stop innovating in the tech sector, you might as well file for bankruptcy right away. In contrast, Juniper has been hiring engineers over the last year.
Long story short, I can't explain why Juniper is cheaper after this report than it was before. The stock has been beating the market this year, so maybe we're seeing a bit of opportunistic profit-taking. But the long-term health of this business is blatantly obvious, even if Juniper is working in the shadow of mighty Cisco. This industry is big enough for several competitors to prosper.
Do you have a better explanation for Juniper's drop? Maybe a different theory on the company's business prospects? Please share in the comments below.