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NetApp Provides Longer-Term View but Doesn't Update First-Quarter, Full-Year Guidance

By Shara Tibken NetApp Inc. (NTAP) provided a financial model for the next few fiscal years largely in line with its historical performance, but the storage maker declined to update its guidance for the current period or year amid an uncertain economy. Chief Financial Officer Nick Noviello, speaking at the company's analyst day, said NetApp's revenue should grow at a rate double that of the broader storage market for fiscal 2013 to 2015, likely putting growth in the mid-teens. During its analyst day a year ago, NetApp said its long-term goals assumed revenue growth of 15% or greater. Adjusted gross margin during the same period should average 60% to 62%, Mr. Noviello said Tuesday. However, Mr. Noviello reiterated NetApp's dismal guidance for the current period and said the company still won't be providing estimates for the year. He cited low visibility and a continued tough economic environment. "We're going to have a slow start to that [longer-term guidance], but on average over that period, we expect to be growing at [two times] the market," Mr. Noviello said. NetApp shares, down 38% over the past 12 months, recently grew 1% to $30.31, paring earlier gains. The stock traded as high as $31.33 earlier Tuesday. The Sunnyvale, Calif., company, which stores and manages clients' information, has suffered for several quarters as some customers--particularly government and financial-services companies--hold back spending on data centers. Its results have contrasted with larger rival EMC Corp. (EMC), which has been reporting record quarters. NetApp last month reported its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings grew 13% on strong revenue in all of its major businesses. But it also provided bleak financial guidance for the first quarter, citing ongoing economic uncertainty, particularly in Europe. Chief Executive Tom Georgens on Tuesday said NetApp plans to gain share and grow longer term, with aspirations to hold the top market share in the storage market. He didn't provide a time frame for the accomplishment, but Mr. Georgens said EMC, the No. 1 provider, currently holds about 32% share, while NetApp has about 24% when combining its branded storage business and its operation providing storage to customers to sell under their own names. Mr. Georgens added that the near-term environment "is clearly uncertain." He said the company's longer-term targets assume a normal storage market for the period. "Headlines are unpleasant," Mr. Georgens said. "As a result, we didn't give full-year guidance. There's clearly concern out there." Write to Shara Tibken at shara.tibken@dowjones.com

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