But that’s where the rocket ride turned into a meltdown. Aruba shares fell more than 15% on Friday after a disappointing third-quarter report and have now gained a much less impressive 31% year-to-date.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though. Aruba's sales jumped by 53% year over year to $106 million, while non-GAAP earnings doubled to $0.16 per share. It's kind of hard to see a letdown in that kind of growth. In fact, Aruba beat Street estimates on both counts.
But that just wasn't good enough. Analysts are worried about stagnant gross margins and a possible end to Aruba's habit of beating estimates and raising guidance. Lower prices as Aruba expands into cost-conscious markets overseas could be a long-term problem.
Those arguments don't hold water as I see it. For one, Aruba's gross margins are hovering around the 65%-70% mark in a long-term view, and while they took a slight bump last quarter, they still look very strong on a historical basis. For another, the complaints about meeting estimates makes me wonder whether those analysts wouldn't be better off simply adjusting their estimates a bit lower. Management is well within its rights to set a conservative bar for the next quarter, as Apple is wont to do on a regular basis. Nobody complains about those easy-to-hit targets.
The only complaint I'd buy about Aruba today is that the stock is far too expensive. Shares are trading for 8 times trailing sales, and the $0.03 of trailing earnings makes P/E ratios completely useless. By comparison, shares of close competitors Motorola Solutions
So Aruba comes back to earth for a while. The move makes sense, but the reasons behind it don't. To find out whether this company and its stock ever meet a happy medium between lofty expectations and excellent performance, you need to watch it like a hawk. Our new My Watchlist feature helps you do just that, by keeping your finger on the pulse of your favorite tickers. Add Aruba to My Watchlist, and you'll be on your way.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any ticker mentioned. See his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and has created a bull call spread position on Cisco Systems. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Riverbed Technology, Apple, and Cisco Systems and have also recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.