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Acquisition, Share Buyback Possible: NetApp CEO

NetApp touts that its storage technology enables filmmakers to make movies, like Avatar, which are heavily reliant on computer-generated special effects.

This week, NetApp shares were nearly as volatile as an action adventure thriller, after the firm's third quarter earnings results were accidentally released before markets closed on Wednesday.

"We're not happy it happened," CEO Thomas Georgens said, in an interview at the Nasdaq Marketsite, where the company opened trading Friday. He says the firm continues to investigate how the earnings release was accessed 30 minutes before the closing bell.

NetApp's second quarter profits rose 72 percent on strong sales growth, but its outlook for the third quarter came up short of analysts' expectations. Georgens says the business outlook remains solid.

On the bottom line, he says, earnings calculation is being pressured in part because the company's shares outstanding have been diluted by convertible notes and warrants.

When asked whether the board is considering a share repurchase to address the problem, he did not dismiss the idea. "That's something we do need to consider," he says.

More pressing for some investors, is whether NetApp is for sale. In August, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison mentioned the storage data firm positively in the context of his desire to make new acquisitions.

Georgens thinks the market may have misinterpreted Ellison's comments, saying "I wasn't sure whether he said he wants our company or he wanted our business."

When it comes to an acquisition, NetApp's chief executive says he thinks the company can stand on its own, but doesn't rule out the possibility of a sale. "If somebody wants NetApp so bad that they're willing to make NetApp a compelling offer, then that's a shareholder issue."

Georgens believes NetApp can continue to provide greater shareholder value as a standalone company. In the meantime, the cost of a potential acquisition has risen steeply. NetApp shares are up more than 20 percent since August.