Elliott Management has taken a stake in software company F5 Networks and is discussing with management ways to boost shareholder value, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
Elliott’s stake is below the reporting threshold of 5%, but the Journal’s sources said the activist investor is one of the biggest investors in the company, which has a market capitalization of around $8.8 billion.
In a Monday investor update, F5 announced plans to buy back $1 billion worth of its shares over the next two years, with half of that through an “accelerated share repurchase” in fiscal 2021. The company intends to distribute 50% of free cash flow to shareholders via share repurchases beginning fiscal 2023, according to the press release.
Shares in F5 Networks jumped more than 15% in pre-market trading Monday after the company’s release.
Elliott will reportedly question F5’s recent acquisitions of Shape Security and Nginx Software, believing it might have overpaid for them without a clear integration strategy.
F5 said on Monday that Shape and Nginx have been successfully integrated, noting the fiscal year 2020 revenue growth of 35% for the former and 109% for the latter.
The company also updated its outlook for the next two years and set longer-term targets that include revenue growth between 8% to 9%, a climb in software revenue of more than 20%, and operating margin in the mid-30s%. These will be discussed on November 18 at an analyst and investor meeting.
The news comes around nine months after Activist Insight Vulnerability reporters identified F5 as vulnerable to activism. Despite making two acquisitions and seeing its revenue grow, the firm has lagged peers on a total shareholder return (TSR) basis, the report noted. F5’s five-year TSR is positive 31%, versus its peer group median of 54% and 67% for the S&P 500 index, according to Activist Insight Vulnerability.
It is unclear what Elliott could suggest to improve performance, but Activist Insight Vulnerability indicated at the time that an activist could push for cost cuts or a sale.