Investors are faced with multiple choices in the networking business, but Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR ) seems to offer investors the best combination of yield, growth, and value. While analysts are calling for much faster earnings growth from peers like Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU ) and Nokia Corporation (NYSE: NOK ) , there are three solid reasons that Juniper is the stock to buy today.
The top line is the top reason
It might sound simplistic, but in many cases if investors are faced with several choices, the company with the best top line growth is a good place to start. In the technology field, companies that grow revenue are prized and those with stalled revenue growth are branded as failures.
It's no secret that the convergence of big data, social media, and the move toward digital distribution creates a nearly constant need for new and improved networking equipment. In theory, there should be enough sales for multiple companies to report significant growth.
However, between Alcatel-Lucent, Juniper, and Nokia, only Juniper is reporting consistent growth across the majority of its businesses. In fact, in the last quarter, Juniper reported that more than 88% of the company's revenue increased by at least 6%. This cross-division strength led Juniper to a 10% annual increase in overall revenue.
To say that Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia lagged Juniper's top line growth is a massive understatement. While Alcatel-Lucent did report growth from just under half of its businesses, the overall result was essentially flat revenue on a year-over-year basis. Nokia did significantly worse with overall revenue declining by 15%. If you are looking for a good reason to buy Juniper today, the company's superior top line growth seems like a good place to start.
From top to bottom
It's true that some companies are able to grow their revenue yet report insignificant or a complete lack of free cash flow. Fortunately for Juniper shareholders, Juniper's top-line growth also translates into significant cash flow as well.
In fact, one of the best ways to compare companies in the same industry is by comparing their core free cash flow to their revenue. This measure of core free cash flow per dollar of sales gives investors an apples-to-apples comparison.
Juniper produced significantly more free cash flow from each dollar of sales relative to its competition. In the most recent quarter, Juniper generated $0.19 in free cash flow per dollar of sales. Looking at Alcatel-Lucent, the company was free cash flow negative and doesn't expect to regain free cash flow until 2015.
Nokia produced positive free cash flow, but nowhere near the level of Juniper's production. At $0.05 of core free cash flow per dollar of sales, the comparison to Juniper is no comparison at all. Juniper is outperforming its peers on a core free cash flow basis, and that is a second reason to buy the stock.
Spending on the future too
The third reason investors should consider buying Juniper today is the company continues to spend heavily on research and development. Along with death and taxes, there is nothing as sure as the fact that technology companies must spend on research and development if they hope to survive in the future.
While networking companies generally spend heavily on R&D, Juniper is leading its peers by this measure as well. In the current quarter, Juniper spent 23% of its revenue on R&D. Though Nokia was close at 22%, and Alcatel-Lucent put up a good fight at 18%, as we've seen neither company generates the cash flow of Juniper.
The bottom line is, Juniper is growing revenue faster, generating more free cash flow, and spending more on R&D than its peers. When you combine these traits with a newly minted dividend and a renewed commitment to share repurchases, you get more than enough reasons to buy the stock.
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