Why Juniper Networks, Inc. Shares Jumped

Is Juniper Networks' rise meaningful? Or just another movement?

Jan 13, 2014 at 6:58PM

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Juniper Networks, (NYSE:JNPR) rose more than 10% during intraday trading Monday -- before settling to close up around 7.6% -- after SEC filings showed activist investor Elliott Management now holds a roughly 6.2% stake in the networking specialist.

So what: Elliott, for its part, is pushing for Juniper to implement a number of shareholder-maximizing actions, including a $200 million run-rate reduction in operating expenses from 2013, a $3.5 billion share repurchase program, a $0.125-per-share quarterly dividend, and the streamlining of Juniper's security and switching products to better focus on its core competencies and compete with rivals.

If Juniper can manage to successfully implement these items, Elliott claims, it would push the stock price to a range of $35 to $40 per share, or a 38% to 58% premium over today's close.

Now what: We'll see how the folks at Juniper react to the push, which arrives less than a month after new CEO Shaygan Kheradpir took the helm. You can bet Kheradpir already had a plan regarding how to revitalize the company, and it remains to be seen whether any of it coincides with Elliott's own vision.

On one hand, shares of Juniper don't look particularly cheap, trading around 34 times last year's earnings. But the stock looks much more attractive at 18 times next year's estimated earnings -- that is, assuming the company can deliver on analysts' projected growth. As a result, while I'm not compelled to step in at today's levels, I'll definitely be keeping an eye on Juniper stock to see how management reacts.

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