Cisco competitor Juniper Networks has became the target of not one, but two, activist investors who think the stock is underperforming: Elliott Management and Jana Partners.
On Thursday Juniper’s new CEO Shaygan Kheradpir bowed to pressure from one of them, Elliott, and agreed to cut $US160 million in costs, spend $US2 billion on share repurchases through 2015 and issue a dividend of at least 10 cents a share starting this year. Plus he agreed to two new board members suggested by Elliott.
Elliott recently took an over 6% stake in the company while Jana Partners bought a 2.65% stake, Reuters’ Luciana Lopez reported. Both activist investors wanted to influence the company now that it has a new CEO. Kheradpir took over on January 1, when Kevin Johnson retired.
Juniper is sitting on $US3 billion in cash and these investors want to see that money spent to increase share price. Elliott believes Juniper should be trading at $US35 to $US40 a share, Lopez reports. It’s been wandering between about $US15 and $US22 for the past two years. Since the activists stepped in, Juniper shares have jumped to just under $US28.
Elliott has also been pressuring Juniper to sell off some of its business lines, reports Network World’s Jim Duffy. And looks like Juniper agreed to that, too.
In Juniper’s press release about the deal with Elliott, the company talked about a bigger reorg, which Kheradpir named “One-Juniper” It will include ditching some business lines, saying: “This will also result in streamlining its operations and business portfolio.”
While there’s much good news in this for investors there could be a downside to employees. The press release included a strong hint that some employees will have to go. It said:
“Juniper’s refocused strategy and optimised One-Juniper company structure will result in a substantial structural reduction … ”
That kind of talk is usually a heads-up that layoffs are coming. We asked a Juniper spokesperson to clarify and were told:
“We are not giving additional details at this time. In the coming months, we will be reviewing business divisions and roles across the global organisation to finalise our personnel change plans.”
The company makes computer security and network equipment for enterprises and telecom providers. It employs about 9,000 people in 70 countries, according to its LinkedIn page.
Last October, ot announced a surprise 3% layoff after reporting a beat-the-street quarter. And it cut 5% of its workforce the previous hear, October, 2012, to save $US150 million.