Saturday, May 20, 2017

Ciena Continuing To Execute Well In A Growing, And Perhaps Changing, Optical Market

Ciena (NASDAQ:CIEN) has done alright since I last wrote about the stock, with the shares up around 8% versus a 10% gain in the S&P 500, a 9% gain in Nokia (NYSE:NOK), and a slight decline in Infinera (NASDAQ:INFN), but this optical player remains a controversial and volatile name. Nobody seems to dispute that Ciena today is a stronger company both financially and competitively than it has been in a long, long time (if not ever), but some analysts and investors are still reluctant to trust that the optical equipment market has really changed and that these good times can last.

I hate "it's different this time" stories because in the vast majority of cases, it really isn't different, and investors go away with singed eyebrows. That said, telco metro deployments seem less lumpy than in past cycles, and the industry has benefited from consolidation. What's more, data center interconnect is a meaningful growth opportunity, and traffic growth seems well-supported by growing use of streaming services and increased fiber-to-the-home deployments.

Given the trends in both telco and non-telco spending, I don't think my long-term revenue forecast of 5% for Ciena is ridiculous or even all that ambitious, though I do have some concerns that the actual "flight path" along that trend line will be choppy. I'm a little more nervous about modeling double-digit FCF margins on a sustained basis, but Ciena management does seem to have the company in better shape. All told, if Cisco can, in fact, deliver 10% long-term FCF growth, a fair value in the mid-$20s is reasonable, and the shares hold some appeal here.

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Ciena Continuing To Execute Well In A Growing, And Perhaps Changing, Optical Market

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