Brocade Communications (Nasdaq: BRCD ) manufactures IP-based Ethernet networking switches and solutions, as well as storage area networking solutions.
Today, let's look at three things investors should be watching regarding Brocade Communications, as they will provide us better insight into the company.
1. Buyout chatter
Normally when listing three things to watch regarding a specific company, buyout speculation will be No. 3. However, with Brocade clearly trying to find a buyer, takeover speculation is absolutely the most important thing shareholders should keep their eyes on.
Brocade originally piqued the interest of Blackstone Group in early February, but a deal was never drawn up. Since that time, other analysts have speculated that Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) or IBM (NYSE: IBM ) would make a good fit. IBM makes a lot of sense to me given that Brocade has supply partnerships already in place with IBM, as well as Hewlett-Packard and Dell. Brocade isn't particularly pricey and is cash flow positive and would give IBM a chance to internalize some of its switching costs. If Oracle were to purchase Brocade, it'd gain a new line of networking products and give it a better footprint in its running hardware war against Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) .
My Foolish colleague Anders Bylund sees it differently and thinks storage specialist EMC (NYSE: EMC ) would be wise to scoop up Brocade. No matter how you cut this, Brocade has been working with Frank Quattrone's Qatalyst Partners to find a buyer and that plan still looks firmly in place.
2. Innovation, innovation, innovation!
The tech sector has one basic rule: Innovate or die! Sure, "bring in more than you spend" is an important rule as well, but in the end a lack of innovation will doom a business (just ask Research In Motion shareholders).
Brocade is constantly trying to improve its networking solutions, but it's also made some very poor decisions in the past that it's still trying to cope with. For instance, Brocade purchased Foundry Networks for an obscenely expensive $3.4 billion in 2008 in order to get access to the Fibre Channel switch market. Brocade, thinking it had found a new lucrative money-making stream, was distraught to find out that Cisco Systems was commanding just as much, if not more, attention from its big investment in Fibre Channel over Ethernet switches with an investment of $1 billion. Cisco's deep pockets and bountiful partnerships have made the switching market a very competitive sector for Brocade.
One area Brocade does stand to make significant strides is in networking infrastructure as it relates to the cloud. Last year Brocade introduced its Brocade Networking Solutions, which allows cloud operators to be billed monthly. Similar to Amazon.com's pay-as-you-go platform, Brocade's BNS could be a key growth driver.
3. CEO transition
The last factor worth keeping an eye on with Brocade is its current management transition. After leading the company for the past seven years, CEO Mike Klayko announced his intentions to step down as soon as Brocade's board of directors finds a suitable replacement.
The move to leave now is somewhat questionable given that Brocade's latest earnings report highlighted that the company is once again moving in the right direction. As resident Foolish tech junkie Anders Bylund noted as well, adjusted earnings gross margin has expanded rapidly to 5.8% from just 1.9% in the past four quarters. In addition, Brocade is solidly profitable and has been aggressively repurchasing its own shares.
Some on Wall Street have speculated that Klayko is leaving because of his inability to get a deal done to sell the company after trying for two years. Personally, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that a deal may be near and Klayko simply didn't want to take a demotion to a non-CEO role. Either way, a consistent message from management is important, and it will pay for shareholders to keep an eye on Brocade during this transition period.
Now that you know what to watch for, it should be easier to analyze Brocade's successes and pitfalls in the future and hopefully give you a competitive investing edge.
If you're still craving even more info on Brocade Communications, I would recommend adding the stock to your free and personalized watchlist so you can keep up on all of the latest news with the company.
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