Equinix Data Center Employee

An Equinix employee making adjustments at one of the company's many data centers. Credit: Equinix via Facebook.

Shares of Equinix (NASDAQ:EQIX) stock fell 0.17% as of 4:42 pm as investors sought to make sense of a fourth-quarter report that included equal parts great and awful. Here's a closer look at the final totals versus Wall Street's projections:

EquinixRevenueYOY GrowthEPSYOY Growth
Consensus estimate  $629.71 million  11.5%  $1.06  (10.9%)
Q4 actuals  $638.12 million  13%  $0.56  (52.9%)
DIFFERENCE  $8.41 million  1.5%  ($0.50)  (42%)

Sources: S&P Capital IQ and Equinix press release.

For the full year, Equinix reported $2,443.78 million in revenue and $3.04 a share in non-GAAP profit. Analysts tracked by S&P Capital IQ were calling for $2,435.29 million and $3.77 a share, respectively.

Commenting on the results, CEO Steve Smith said in a press release:

In the fourth quarter, we delivered record bookings, driven by strong performance across all three regions, new customer wins and continued expansion of our cloud ecosystem. The rapid growth of interconnection reflects the importance of Equinix as the place where leading companies come to connect to their customers and partners to accelerate the growth of their business. 

What went right: Smith means that Equinix operates data centers that sit on top of the key interconnection points of the Internet. That way, customers "plugging in" at their locations get the fastest available onramp. The company also facilitates direct data connections between customers who pay to be at the same site. More seem to be doing just that: Interconnection revenues rose 15.5% in the fourth quarter. The company is also in the process of completing its conversion to a real estate investment trust, or REIT, and correspondingly will be paying an initial quarterly dividend of $1.69 a share.

What went wrong: Per-share earnings came in well below analyst estimates for reasons that aren't entirely clear. A $105.8 million charge for early extinguishment of debt -- or about $1.89 a share -- appears to have played a role, however. Cash flow is the key metric to watch moving forward, especially now that the company has switched over to REIT status. Equinix needs consistent, healthy cash flows to pay its dividend obligations while servicing a $4.7 billion debt load.

What's next: Looking ahead, Equinix expects total revenue in the range of $634 million to $638 million. That includes an estimated $19 million in negative currency exchange impact. The company didn't supply specific per-share earnings guidance. Analysts tracked by S&P Capital IQ have the data-center operator generating $646.68 million in revenue and $1.25 a share in profit versus $508.05 million and $0.78 a share in last year's first quarter.

Longer term, analysts have Equinix generating 31.8% average annual earnings growth during the next five years.

Tim Beyers is all about that data, no assumptions. He's also a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission and owned shares of Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool.

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