Stifel's Sanjiv Wadhwani has upgraded Infinera (INFN +5.5%) to Buy. Following meetings at last week's OFC 2014 optical networking industry conference, Wadhwani believes demand for 100G systems "is now on a much more global scale versus a year ago," with activity having picked up in Europe and parts of Asia.
Ciena (CIEN +3.8%), also a major player in the 100G optical transport space, is following Infinera higher. Both companies (as well as several peers) rallied last week after Goldman upgraded Infinera and Calix, while estimating 100G systems have a 15% gross margin edge relative to 10G systems.
Component makers Finisar (FNSR +2.3%), Oclaro (OCLR +2.6%), and Alliance Fiber (AFOP +3.8%), each of which also have 100G exposure, are rallying as well.
Goldman's upgrades of Infinera (INFN +14.9%) and Calix (CALX +2.8%) wound up sparking a broader rally telecom equipment and optical component makers. Notable gainers: FNSR +6.2%. UBNT +6.7%. CYNI +5.1%. CIEN +3.8%. JDSU +5.4%. AFOP +3.4%. NPTN +3.4%. ADTN +2.8%. FN +2.2%.
Goldman's Simona Jankowski believes Infinera, which recently lost a major Verizon deal to Alcatel-Lucent, has regained Level 3 as a client. She also estimates 100G optical system shipments "have approximately a 15% point gross margin advantage" relative to 10G counterparts, and sees this delta boosting Infinera's margins as 100G "increases from mid-50% of total product revenue in 2013 to mid-70% in 2014."
Regarding Calix, Jankowski reports seeing better spending trends among the tier 2/3 carriers the company leans heavily on, and thinks 2014/2015 estimates now "more accurately reflect" Calix's growth trajectory.
Today's gains come as the optical networking industry's OFC 2014 conference continues. As usual, the conference has seen a slew of product launches. Ciena has followed Infinera (previous) in launching software tools for intelligently controlling a network's optical layers, and JDS Uniphase is showing off several new components and modules.
Though Ciena's (CIEN +2.1%) FQ1 revenue was only in-line, its gross margin (43.4%, +260 bps Q/Q and -120 bps Y/Y) and opex ($199.8M, -5% Q/Q and +13% Y/Y) were favorable to guidance for a low-40s GM and $205M in opex. That, in turn, helped EPS beat by $0.07.
Ciena expects FQ2 revenue of $540M-$570M, in-line with a $561.1M consensus. GM is again expected to be in the low-40s range, and opex is expected to rise to $210M.
Sales of integrated Ethernet switching/optical networking gear rose 39% Y/Y in FQ1 to $333.4M (62.5% of revenue). Software/services sales -1% to $108.5M; Ethernet switching +13% to $51.7M; optical transport -30% to $40.1M.
Optical networking rival Infinera (INFN +4.5%) is also higher. The company recently launched a solution it claims can automate/control both the digital switching and optical transport layers of an optical network. The solution, part of a broader trend towards building networks that offer more optical layer intelligence and flexibility, is expected to ship in September.
Ciena (CIEN +4.7%) is now up 13% since announcing a major reseller deal/product partnership with mobile infrastructure leader Ericsson on Friday morning. PT hikes from Nomura, Evercore, and MKM are contributing to today's gains.
Nomura's Stuary Jeffrey has upped his Ciena FY16 (ends Oct. '16) EPS forecast to $2.33 from $1.92, and predicts the Ericsson deal will lift Ciena's EMEA/Asia-Pac share by 2%. He expects the gross margin for Ericsson-related revenue to be 500 bps lower than for other sales, but (given Ericsson is handling much of the sales burden) also thinks the opex-to-sales ratio will be half that for other business.
Citi's Ehud Gelblum sees the deal improving Ciena's reach in emerging markets and Asia-Pac, where its presence has historically been limited. He also expects Ericsson to boost sales of Ciena's carrier Ethernet gear for wireless backhaul deployments.
Ciena (CIEN) is partnering with mobile infrastructure giant Ericsson (ERIC) to jointly develop integrated Ethernet/optical networking solutions (i.e. packet-optical), as well as carrier software-defined networking (SDN) offerings.
As part of the deal, Ericsson, which counts most of the world's top mobile carriers among its clients, will resell Ciena's 6500 packet-optical systems and 5400 reconfigurable optical switches. The companies are looking to address carrier needs for more powerful/intelligent back-end infrastructures as mobile data traffic continues soaring.
Ciena's packet-optical sales rose 16% Y/Y in the October quarter, and accounted for 60% of revenue. Its SDN business is still in its early stages - though many see tremendous long-term potential for the technology, large-scale carrier SDN adoption isn't expected before 2016.
Jefferies' Geroge Notter reports Infinera (INFN -11.5%) has lost a $100M Verizon contract for long-haul optical transmission hardware to Alcatel-Lucent (ALU +0.5%). Infinera was considered the favorite to win the deal, which will make Alcatel Verizon's second long-haul supplier. Ciena (CIEN +3.9%) is the other.
Notter reports hearing "pricing was exceedingly low" for the deal, and that this, along with an intervention by Alcatel CEO Michel Combes, helped Alcatel win out even though Verizon's tech people are partial to Infinera's innovative DTN-X transmission platform (previous).
Notter: "The anecdote serves as another reminder that the best technology doesn't always win in the Communications Infrastructure space ... Relationships and pricing can go a long way." Infinera is said to have invested heavily in trying to win over Verizon, which would have acted as a major reference account.
Possibly motivating Alcatel to price aggressively: The company's optical transport sales fell 1.8% YY in Q3, and have been under pressure for a while. Alcatel reports on Feb. 6, and Infinera on Jan. 29.
Calix's Q4 warning, which has come in the wake of warnings (I, II) from fellow telecom equipment suppliers Cyan (CYNI -2.4%) and Procera (PKT -2.6%), has sparked a general selloff in telecom equipment and component/chip names. A Deutsche downgrade of Alcatel-Lucent, one of the best-performing names in the space in 2013, could also be playing a role.
Calix, Cyan, and Procera all have considerable exposure to U.S. carriers not named AT&T or Verizon. While Calix didn't mention which region(s) are responsible for its warning, Cyan blamed an 88% Q/Q drop in sales to U.S. telco/top customer Windstream, and Procera blamed soft demand from U.S. cable providers.
FBR's Scott Thompson has started coverage on Infinera (INFN +1.6%) with an Outperform and $12.50 PT. He expects the optical networking space to "experience stronger performance in 2014 versus 2013" thanks to several catalysts he expects will "one of the strongest optical cycles the industry has seen in more than two decades."
Thompson also reiterates an argument he made in a Dec. 4 note on Ciena (CIEN +2.3%): That telecom networks are migrating towards architectures that offer greater optical layer intelligence/flexibility, and in doing so require less money to be spent on switches/routers.
Thompson thinks this architecture shift is partly responsible for the recent weakness seen in Cisco's (CSCO +0.6%) service provider sales.
As for Infinera, a major player in the 100G optical transmission space, Thompson declares the company to have the strongest exposure to the optical segments where "the shift will be the most pronounced."
In addition to Infinera and Ciena, a couple other optical networking hardware vendors are doing well on a good day for tech, as are some component suppliers. CYNI +4.3%. AFOP +5.9%. OPLK +2.8%. OCLR +2.4%. ADTN +1.9%.
FBR's Scott Thompson thinks Ciena (CIEN +7%) will deliver a beat-and-raise FQ4 report on Dec. 12, and sees the telecom equipment vendor benefiting from carrier adoption of network architectures that feature "more intelligence and flexibility at the optical layer."
Thompson sees carriers building more advanced metro optical networks, replete with data centers that enable services such as content caching, app hosting, and advanced mobile messaging. He points to a recent optical switching deal between Verizon and Ciena as an example of how the latter benefits from this trend, and sees a similar deal with AT&T arriving soon.
At the same time, he cautions optical gross margins "could be under pressure," thanks to aggressive pricing from Infinera (INFN +2%), lengthy deployment times, and the adoption of software-defined networking controllers (CYNI is among the companies providing them) that remove some intelligence from the optical layer.
Ciena flew higher three months ago following its FQ3 report. The company reported solid demand for its integrated Ethernet switching/optical networking hardware, which now accounts for 56% of revenue.
Infinera is following Ciena higher, and so are Finisar (FNSR +5.2%), JDS Uniphase (JDSU +3.1%), Fabrinet (FN +1.8%), and AppliedMicro (AMCC +3.9%).
The list of enterprise hardware/software, telecom equipment, and component/chip suppliers selling off (previous) due to Cisco's poor guidance and order data now includes Oracle (ORCL -2.4%), EZchip (EZCH -6.1%), Riverbed (RVBD -6%, shot higher yesterday on M&A hopes), NeoPhotonics (NPTN -6.6%), Ixia (XXIA -4.7%), Oclaro (OCLR -4%), Procera (PKT -2.3%), and Alliance Fiber (AFOP -3.8%).
Cisco's weak service provider (-13% Y/Y) and emerging markets (-12%) orders are worrying investors in peers/suppliers, particularly given some peers (I, II) have also reported of soft carrier and/or EM demand. John Chambers' admission the NSA spying scandal has affected sales in China (orders -18%) also isn't going over well.
However, many on the sell-side argue a big portion of Cisco's problems are tied to company-specific product issues.
H-P (HPQ -5.6%), which has plenty of Chinese exposure, has added considerably to yesterday's AH losses, and so have Ciena (CIEN -5.3%) and Finisar (FNSR -10%). H-P's FQ4 report is due on Nov. 26, and Ciena's FQ4 report arrives on Dec. 12.
Cisco's (CSCO) dispiriting Jan. quarter guidance and Oct. quarter order data has produced an AH selloff in enterprise IT and telecom equipment names, as well as a couple of the companies supplying them. NetApp's below-consensus guidance might not be helping either.
Cisco's slumping FQ1 service provider (-13% Y/Y) and emerging markets (-12%) orders are bound to fuel concerns about carrier capex and macro trends. At the same time, it's worth noting Juniper and Alcatel-Lucent have been seeing better router sales to carriers (though not to Asia), and that Huawei has been doing better in emerging markets.
The rest of Cisco's order data for major regions and customer groups was relatively better, but not exactly encouraging. Americas orders -2%, EMEA -4%, Asia-Pac (hurt by emerging markets weakness) -9%. Enterprise orders +2%, commercial (SMBs) +1%, public sector -1%.
Switch sales (31% of revenue) rose 3% Y/Y, while routers (17% of revenue) fell 1%. Collaboration rose 1%, and service provider video fell 14% due to set-top weakness. Cisco's ASR 9000 edge router line, which EZchip (EZCH) supplies network processors for, grew 20% in FQ1 vs. 43% in FQ4.
Data center (UCS servers) had another strong quarter, growing 44%, but still only accounts for 5% of revenue. Wireless (dominated by Wi-Fi gear) grew only 8% after growing 32% in FQ4 (could be a negative for ARUN and RKUS).
John Chambers was asked on the CC (transcript) if the NSA spying uproar was affecting Cisco. He admitted it's a problem in China, but denied it was a major issue elsewhere.
Several telecom equipment vendors and component suppliers are selling off in sympathy with Calix (CALX -22.7%) and Cyan (CYNI -31.8%), each of which is crashing due to the poor Q4 guidance (I, II) provided with its Q3 results. Both companies are heavily dependent on U.S. telco spending.
Calix blamed its guidance on soft demand from tier-2 and tier-3 carriers, while Cyan blamed "cautious order patterns" caused by macro issues. On its CC (transcript), the company noted orders from top customer Windstream will be "substantially down compared to prior quarters."
Notable decliners include Finisar (FNSR -7.3%), JDS Uniphase (JDSU -3%), Ruckus (RKUS -6.6%), Applied Micro (AMCC -3.8%), Procera (PKT -4.1%), Allot (ALLT -3.8%), Ciena (CIEN -2.7%), and Alliance Fiber (AFOP -7.7%). JDS and Ruckus report after the bell; Allot and Procera rallied yesterday in response to the former's Q3 report.
Several industry names sold off last Thursday due to Infinera's soft Q4 guidance. Infinera said at the time it doesn't "expect significant budget flush or year-end money" from carriers.
Though its Q3 results beat estimates, Infinera (INFN -9.4%) guided on its CC (transcript) for Q4 revenue of $130M-$140M and EPS of breakeven to -$0.04, below a consensus of $141.1M and $0.03. Gross margin is expected to fall back to ~40% after rising to 49% in Q3 (+1000 bps Q/Q and Y/Y).
While Infinera expects to benefit from "a number of significant new wins and deployments" in Q4, the company doesn't "expect significant budget flush or year-end money" from carriers.
Moreover, while Infinera has won a number of new deals - five new purchase commitments were scored for its DTN-X optical transmission platform - deal timing "remains challenging because of [Infinera's] short lead times and the strategic nature of many of these customer decisions."