Why Juniper Networks, Inc. Shares Popped

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  ) jumped more than 10% during Friday's intraday trading, then settled to close up 6.6% after the company released encouraging fourth-quarter results. In addition, according to The Wall Street Journal, activist investor Jana Partners has increased its stake, and plans to push for the networking specialist to both return more capital to shareholders and reduce costs by $300 million per year.

So what: Jana Partners' move is strikingly similar to that of Elliott Management, which announced a 6.2% stake in Juniper Networks less than two weeks ago. And Elliott, for its part, wants Juniper to not only reduce operating expenses by $200 million per year, but also initiate a $0.125 per-share dividend, and a $3.5 billion share repurchase plan.

Even so, it appears both activist investors are overshadowing Juniper's good earnings news, which includes a 12% year-over-year increase in Q4 revenue, to $1.274 million. That translated to adjusted net income growth of 34.9%, to $0.43 per diluted share, including a $0.04 sequential benefit from a lower tax rate. Meanwhile, analysts were looking for earnings of just $0.37 on sales of $1.22 billion.

Now what: Regardless of whether Juniper decides to cave to the demands of its activist investors, those results are solid any way you slice it. That's why, even after today's pop and with shares currently trading at a modest 18.6 times next year's estimated earnings, I think the stock should still be able to handsomely reward patient investors over the long run.

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