January 30, 2018 / 10:32 PM / 10 months ago

UPDATE 2-Juniper Networks' 1st-qtr forecast disappoints, shares slide

(Adds details from conference call, analyst comment; updates shares)

By Muvija M

Jan 30 (Reuters) - Network gear maker Juniper Networks Inc on Tuesday forecast earnings and revenue for the current quarter well below analysts' forecasts, as its large cloud computing customers delay deployments.

Shares of Sunnyvale, California-based Juniper fell more than 9 percent in after-hours trading.

The weak forecast was only due to deployment delays from cloud customers and "not about a loss of share or footprint to the competition", Juniper Chief Executive Rami Rahim said on a post-earnings call.

Like larger rival Cisco Systems Inc, Juniper has been focusing on areas such as cloud computing to offset softness in the switches and routers markets.

Although the company said it expected revenue to return to year-on-year growth by the end of 2018, some analysts were not too optimistic about the view.

"We view the hole to be significant enough that Juniper is likely to see revenue for the full year to fall even if they start to recover sequentially," Needham & Co analyst Alex Henderson said.

He added that the company is set to benefit from a drop in tax rate in the first quarter, without which "the earnings would be pummeled".

Juniper said it expected adjusted earnings of around 25 cents per share and revenue of around $1.05 billion for the quarter ending March 31.

Analysts were expecting earnings of 42 cents per share and revenue of $1.15 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Juniper's cloud revenue fell 37 percent in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, contributing to the worst decline in overall revenue in at least four quarters.

Total revenue fell 10.5 percent to $1.24 billion. Analysts on average had expected $1.23 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The net loss was $148.1 million, or 40 cents per share, reflecting a $289.5 million one-time charge related to new U.S. tax laws.

Excluding one-time items, it earned 53 cents per share, edging past analysts' average estimate by 1 cent.

The company announced an 80 percent increase to its quarterly dividend and a $2 billion share buyback plan.

Juniper plans to repatriate about $3 billion as a result of the recent U.S. tax reform. (Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Sai Sachin Ravikumar)

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