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Why Is F5 (FFIV) Up 21% Since Last Earnings Report?

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A month has gone by since the last earnings report for F5 Networks (FFIV - Free Report) . Shares have added about 21% in that time frame, outperforming the S&P 500.

Will the recent positive trend continue leading up to its next earnings release, or is F5 due for a pullback? Before we dive into how investors and analysts have reacted as of late, let's take a quick look at its most recent earnings report in order to get a better handle on the important catalysts.

F5 Networks Q4 Results

F5 Networks reported fourth-quarter fiscal 2020 non-GAAP earnings per share of $2.43, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2.38. Moreover, the quarterly earnings came in higher than management’s guidance of $2.30-$2.42 per share. Nonetheless, non-GAAP earnings fell 6.2% from the year-ago quarter as elevated operating expenses offset the benefit of higher revenues to a large extent.

Non-GAAP revenues increased 4% year over year to $615 million, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $607 million on solid software growth. Also, revenues came in line with the company’s high-end guided range of $595-$615 million.

Revenue Details

Product revenues (45% of total revenues) during the fiscal fourth quarter totaled $280 million, up 6% year over year. Software sales jumped 36% year over year to $113 million, accounting for approximately 40% of the total Product revenues.

The upside in Software sales can be attributed to the revenue contribution from the recently-acquired Shape Security business as well as the growing adoption of the Enterprise License Agreement (ELA) and annual subscriptions among customers. Shape contributed nearly $23 million to the company’s Software business revenues during the reported quarter.

Service revenues (55% of total revenues) increased 3% to $336 million. Improvements to the tools and processes that the company’s team uses to identify and secure renewals are among the key catalysts. Further, healthy services attached in renewal rates to software sold as perpetual or as subscriptions, including NGINX-related sales, were tailwinds. Moreover, increase in consulting-services demand associated with the rising software sales is an upside.

Margins

GAAP gross margin contracted 280 basis points (bps) to 81.8%. Non-GAAP gross margin shrunk 190 bps to 84.4%.

Operating expenses flared up 5.7% year on year to $335 million. As a result of lower gross margin and higher operating expenses, the company’s non-GAAP operating margin shrunk 250 bps to 30.1%.

Balance Sheet & Cash Flow

F5 Networks exited the July-September quarter with cash and investments of $1.3 billion compared with the prior-year quarter’s $1.1 billion.

During fiscal 2020, the company generated $661 million of operating cash flow. Moreover, during the same time frame, it bought back $100 million worth of its common stocks.

Outlook

The company issued an encouraging business outlook for the first quarter of fiscal 2021. For the fiscal first quarter, F5 Networks expects non-GAAP revenues of $595-$615 million. The company anticipates non-GAAP earnings per share in the $2.26-$2.38 band.

We believe surging demand for multi-cloud application services will be a key growth driver. Furthermore, solid demand for software solutions is a tailwind. Rising traction from subscription and ELA offerings is another driving factor.

Additionally, F5 Networks and NGINX’s first combined solution, Controller 3.0, is expected to increase the total addressable market and deal sizes by spending more use cases across DevOps and Super-NetOps customer profiles.

How Have Estimates Been Moving Since Then?

It turns out, fresh estimates have trended upward during the past month.

VGM Scores

At this time, F5 has a subpar Growth Score of D, however its Momentum Score is doing a lot better with an A. However, the stock was allocated a grade of C on the value side, putting it in the middle 20% for this investment strategy.

Overall, the stock has an aggregate VGM Score of C. If you aren't focused on one strategy, this score is the one you should be interested in.

Outlook

Estimates have been broadly trending upward for the stock, and the magnitude of these revisions looks promising. Notably, F5 has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). We expect an in-line return from the stock in the next few months.


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