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F5 Networks shares slump on December quarter view

NEW YORK -- Shares of F5 Networks Inc. sank Thursday after the company's forecast for the current quarter disappointed, and the company said the slower economy is weighing on its customers.

THE SPARK: F5, which provides corporate networking equipment and services to businesses, late Wednesday issued a profit projection of $1.14 to $1.16 per share for the quarter ending in December on revenue of $363 million to $370 million. Analysts expected more: Profit of $1.20 per share on revenue of $373.7 million.

THE BIG PICTURE: F5 said the weaker economy has hurt its outlook and its growth slowed down in the second half of its fiscal year. Beginning this summer and continuing into the fall, deals with big U.S. customers got smaller, said CEO John McAdam.

THE ANALYSIS: Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Robison downgraded the stock to "Hold" from "Buy," saying the company is spending more than he expected, while customers are being cautious. He cut his price target by $15 to $100.

But Caris & Co. analyst John Slack lifted F5 to "Buy" from "Above Average," saying that revenue growth for the company's product division will pick up next year as it releases new products.

SHARE ACTION: Shares of F5 Networks lost $10.20, or 11 percent, to $83.12 in afternoon trading. Shares have dropped 22 percent this year.

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