Is This Networking Specialist Too Expensive Now?

Optical networking specialist Finisar (Nasdaq: FNSR  ) reported a strong first quarter last night, sending the stock on a rocket-boosted overnight ride. Don't worry about getting priced out of an investment opportunity, though -- this hike merely erased the scuff marks left by a rough-and-tumble August. Finisar is still pretty cheap for an optical networking stock.

The company is following much the same trends as larger rival JDS Uniphase (Nasdaq: JDSU  ) to strong sales: Raging growth in mobile data networking means new investments in the backhaul networks that connect cell towers to the wider Internet, which means fresh orders for Finisar's largest customers. Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) is No. 1 in the order book year after year, but Finisar also supplies optical components to everybody from Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR  ) to Brocade Communications Systems (Nasdaq: BRCD  ) . OK, so Finisar doesn't do metal-cutting fiber-optic lasers, like JDS does. The networking analogy is still obvious.

First-quarter sales grew 10.3% sequentially and 61.5% year-over-year to land at $208 million. That growth outpaces even JDS, and that comparison is all the more impressive because Finisar sold a small unit to JDS during the year in question. GAAP earnings increased from a $0.18 loss per share last year to $0.24 per share of profits this time. Sales, margins, and earnings all posted company records.

And the good times will keep rolling. Finisar's order backlog is another record-setting measure, and the book-to-bill ratio is "comfortably" over the crucial 1.0 mark. As long as people keep buying data-hungry smartphones and watching bandwidth-hogging high-def videos in digital formats, Finisar and its optical brethren will keep on rocking. I don't see an end to either of those trends in the foreseeable future.

Finisar is merely a three-star CAPS stock today, but less than nine months removed from a top-of-the-line five-star rating. Scoot over to CAPS to voice your opinion on Finisar -- or any other stock -- in just a couple of clicks.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. The Fool has written calls (Bull Call Spread) on Cisco Systems. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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