Elliott Management bends another one to its will. Today NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ:NTAP) caved under pressure from its activist shareholder and announced that it will fast track the $1 billion share buyback over the next four months. The data management company however denies that the changes approved by NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ:NTAP)’s board were influenced by Elliott’s intervention alone. NetApp decided on the renewed share buyback plan and quarterly dividend after consulting with all of its shareholders, according to company sources.
Elliott owns less than 5 percent stake in NetApp, the hedge fund confirmed yesterday, but rumors of a large stake were circulating since last week. Elliott owned 1.15 million shares of NTAP at the end of Q4 2012 and boosted that stake to 16 million some time in this quarter. The hedge fund started pushing for changes to the company’s board and called for attempts to increase value for shareholders. The restructurings were announced yesterday in the quarterly earnings call.
Jesse Cohn from Elliott Management, who was also responsible for the successful activist campaign at BMC Software, Inc. (NASDAQ:BMC), told Reuters that Elliott was happy with the company’s plan and appreciates their initiative. Elliott has also been involved in a proxy fight with Hess Corp. (NYSE:HES) that also saw encouraging developments when Hess announced changes to its board of directors and accepted other suggestions from the activist hedge fund.
NetApp Raises its shares buyback:
On Tuesday, NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ:NTAP) announced that it was raising its shares buyback from $1.6 billion to $3 billion and that it would complete the program in the next three years. The company also announced a quarterly dividend payment of 15 cents per share which will cost $216 million annually. In the plan announced yesterday, NetApp was also cutting down on 7 percent of jobs, which equals 900 layoffs. Until the end of April, NetApp has $6.9 billion in cash and equivalents. The company will take a $50-$60 million write down in pre-tax restructuring costs.
In yesterday’s Q4 2013 earnings call, NetApp announced a decrease of 3.8 percent in net profits. For the next quarter (Q1 2014), the company sees 45-50 cents in adjusted EPS and a revenue of $1.48-$1.58 billion. The guidance misses analyst expectations of EPS 53 cents and revenue of $1.6 billion.
FBN Securities believes that the new plan from NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ:NTAP) will add 40 cents to FY2015’s EPS, whereas the new 1.5 percent dividend yield will attract more investors to the data storage solutions company. Analysts think that a greater dependence of NetApp on its branded business instead of OEM segment will help in boosting revenues. FBN assesses that the 7 percent job cuts will reduce the company’s operating expenditure/ employee to $56,ooo in FY2014, from $58,000/employee in Q4 2013. FBN maintains its Outperform rating and has a price target of $42.
NetApp rose 4 percent in trading today and is now up 2.3 percent, at $37.5.