One area of that market that has led the current stock market recovery is the technology sector. The Powershares QQQ has been on a steady trajectory higher since 2009. It has more than tripled in value. Rising from just under $30 to above $92 today. However, not all names have followed this same trajectory. This comes as the technology space has become increasingly competitive.
One technology stock that is still trading 30% below levels that it traded at in both 2011 and 2012 is Citrix Systems (NASDAQ:CTXS). And with a market cap that's just over $10 billion, it could be a buyout target for the likes of Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) and Oracle (NYSE:ORCL). Analysts expect Citrix to grow earnings at a faster rate over the next five years than either Cisco or Oracle. What's more is that Citrix is loved by hedge funds. A number of major big hedge fund names and billionaires are piling into this beaten-up tech company. Names like billionaires Lee Ainslie, George Soros, Dan Loeb, Richard Perry, Ken Griffin, and Steve Cohen are at the top of any list of the all-time great hedge fund managers.
Betting on virtualization
Citrix Systems operates in the cloud infrastructure and networking space. The company specializes in helping companies build, manage, and secure virtual and mobile workspaces that deliver apps, data, and services to virtually anyone, on any device, over any network or cloud.
Citrix is in the process of finding a new CEO and is undergoing a restructuring. All the big hedge funds are banking on a turnaround. Citrix is not a distressed company. About 8% of its market cap is covered by cash on the strong balance sheet. The other key for a potential Citrix buyer is that it carries no debt. . Shares are now trading at their lowest levels in five years on an enterprise value-to-earnings before interest taxes depreciation and amortization basis.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch recently touted Citrix Systems as a takeover target. The bank believes Citrix would be a great fit for a company trying to diversify away from declining hardware sales.
As mentioned, both Cisco and Oracle are a couple companies that are making cloud computing a bigger focus. They both also have strong balance sheets that would allow them to swallow up Citrix. Citrix's market cap is a mere $10 billion compared to Cisco's $126 billion and Oracle's $180 billion.
Oracle has been active on the software-as-a-service acquisition front. This includes the 2012 acquisition of RightNow and Taleo, 2013 acquisition of Eloqua, and purchase of Responsys earlier this year. It already has a very large installed customer base, and offering additional services has proven to be a great way to penetrate its customer base even further.
Cisco owns the the Ethernet switching and routing market. The company could look to become more a holistic solution for customers, which would make Citrix an interesting acquisition. Regardless, Cisco will be a big benefactor of the rise in bandwidth consumption.
Cisco and Citrix have been in partnership for a couple years now. Earlier this month, they extended their partnership. This comes as more companies are moving to SaaS applications that are deployed via the cloud, which has changed the data center market. Cisco will now be using Citrix's ADC technology for its NetScaler devices to that provide load balancing across networks.
What makes Citrix enticing?
By buying up Citrix now, the acquirer would get the business while it trades at one of its lowest levels on a price to earnings, price to sales and price to book basis. But what's more is that Citrix Systems is a leader in the one of the fastest growing industries in tech, the virtualization and cloud computing space. It's expected to grow earnings at an annualized rate of 11% over the next five years, which is above what either Oracle or Cisco will churn out, according to analysts' expectations.
It also boosted its position in the cloud-based data storage segment with its ShareFile. ShareFile offers cloud solutions to companies, with over 14,000 paying corporate clients. It has also teamed up with VMware and snatched up mobile device management company, Zenprise. Citrix also owns GoToMeeting, where the global web conference market size could be as large as $4 billion.
All in all, Citrix operates across various verticals. Its GoToMeeting and ShareFile offerings gives its a software-as-a-service presence, while its XenApp and NetScaler products makes the company a formidable force in the cloud and virtualization space.
Citrix has a number of key development and products it's rolling out, making it an even greater presence these fast growing markets. One of the key items is its Workspace Suite, which brings together desktop, mobile, app, and data services.
As part of its cloud offering, Citrix has rolled out NetScaler MobileStream, which brings together mobile networks and applications. Its NetScaler product is already growing faster than the rest of the company, making cloud a larger part of total sales.
Citrix appears to be trading at attractive valuation levels, potentially attractive enough to interest one of the major tech companies. Regardless, as a stand-alone company, Citrix is positioned to compete nicely in the virtualization market. For investors looking for a beaten-down play on the cloud computing market, Citrix might be worth a closer look.
Marshall Hargrave has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Cisco Systems, and VMware. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Oracle, and VMware. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.