Shares of Juniper Networks (JNPR) are down about 2% so far in 2017 and are up over 10% over the past 12 months. Does this present a buying opportunity? Keep in mind that the broader equity market, as measured by the S&P 500, is up 5% for 2017, and almost 15% over the past 12 months. A stock that underperforms usually underperforms for a reason, though. The market is supposed to price in all publicly available information—the efficient market hypothesis—although that doesn't always mean the market is right. In the case of JNPR, I think the market has a valid reason as to why it shares have underperformed.
Look at the numbers above; the company looks cheap with a P/E ratio in the 11 range, price-to-sales around 2. Look at those anemic growth rates, however: 3% revenue growth in 2018, 6% EPS growth in 2018 and 2019? Ugh. The stock doesn't scream excitement.
(Data Compiled From Juniper Quarterly Releases)
The router business has seen revenue stagnate since 2013, topping out in the range of $600 million to $654 million per quarter. Switching saw some minimal growth over the years. Finally, the security business seems to be losing ground over the past three years.
Juniper produced about 71% of total revenue from products, with the balance coming from services. In the fourth quarter of 2016, Juniper's service revenue came in at $400 million, up from $345.7 million the year prior. That is growth of nearly 15.7 percent year over year. For the full year, service revenue increased to $1.46 billion from $1.29 billion in 2015, up about 12.8 percent for the year. In 2015 services represented 26.6 percent of the company's total revenue and by 2016 it represented about 30 percent.
The company is guiding the first quarter of 2017 for total revenue in the range of $1.17 billion to $1.23 billion, which is an increase from the first quarter of 2016 of $1.1 billion, growth of about 9 percent.
Juniper will need to continue to see revenue growth in the services business to offset the stagnation in the products business. The biggest obstacle it faces is that the services unit does not represent enough of the total business at this point to drive multiples expansion for the stock price. The market and analysts seem to agree, based on estimates, which why you see such anemic forecasted growth rates for the company out to 2019.
But this view is not the only possible one, and that's what creates the opportunity. Just remember, Juniper is up against some enormous players, including Cisco Systems (CSCO) and Sweden’s Ericsson (ERIC) and smaller competitors such as Arista Networks (ANET) and Brocade Communications Inc. (BRCD)