This Is a Buyout Waiting to Happen

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Six months ago, shares of Brocade Communications Systems (Nasdaq: BRCD  ) fell 23% the day after a dismal earnings report. Three months later, the company tried a new spin-management method: one press release for the bad financial news and another full of sunny management spin. It was "Brocade Reports Fiscal Q2 Results" hiding behind "Brocade Demonstrates Strong Customer Adoption and Innovation in Q2 FY 2010."

It didn't work. Brocade fell 9% right away.

Apparently figuring that it was just bad luck, Brocade is trying that trick again. Last night's "Fiscal Q3 Results" release was accompanied by the much snappier "Brocade Demonstrates Technology Innovation and Industry Leadership in Q3 FY2010." But it doesn't matter if you put lipstick and a pink tutu on the pig -- it still stinks.

Brocade's sales grew a piddly 2% year over year, to $504 million, and non-GAAP earnings per share increased by 8%, to $0.13. CEO Michael Klayko put a positive twist on this: "Q3 was another solid quarter for Brocade in which we achieved better-than-expected results from our storage area networking business and continued to make progress in our Ethernet go-to-market initiatives."

That's a severe disappointment in an era when Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) gets chided for a mere 27% revenue leap and 24% stronger revenues aren't good enough for Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR  ) or storage expert EMC (NYSE: EMC  ) .

If there's an upside to Brocade's bad news, you won't find it in the spin-heavy management notes. Trailing earnings did improve while the market cap didn't, so now the company looks cheap enough to become real buyout bait. I've already noted that Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) might be interested just to add a networking component to its portfolio, but Cisco could also make a bid for the storage expertise on display, and the whole shebang would be an easy plug-in addition for IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) or Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) . All of these firms are well-known buyout buffs, and they all have reason to cast desirous eyes on a cheap-and-cheerful version of Brocade.

I'm casting an "outperform" vote on Brocade in CAPS right now; not because it's a great stand-alone business, but because there are hungry sharks in the water.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. The Fool owns shares of Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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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