We have recently reiterated our Neutral recommendation on VeriSign, Inc. (VRSN).
Earnings estimates for VeriSign have been more or less static in 2012 after the company reported its third quarter results. VeriSign posted a net income of 44 cents per share, in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate.
However, earnings estimates for 2013 have gone down by 6 cents as all the 4 analysts covering the stock lowered their estimates.
VeriSign’s registry, security and communications services are essential for the smooth functioning of the online world. However, as expected, growth in domain name addition has slowed down. The company added 1.37 million net new domain names in the third quarter, below its guidance of 1.6 million – 1.9 million.
This was primarily due to continuous changes in search algorithms and weak economic environment in Europe. The guidance was also disappointing as management expects to add 0.9 million to 1.3 million net names in the fourth quarter. In addition, the company also narrowed its revenue guidance to $870 million and $875 million in 2012, from the previous guidance of $870 million – $880 million.
Meanwhile, under the Cooperative Agreement between the Department of Commerce and VeriSign, the latter submitted its agreement on June 26, 2012 with ICANN relating to the renewal agreement to serve as the authoritative registry operator for the .com.
However, the Commerce Department is currently conducting a review of pricing with the Department of Justice and this review in all probability will continue beyond the stipulated deadline of November 30, 2012. In such a case, a 6-month extension of the .com registry agreement would come into effect. The delay causes uncertainty over the renewal agreement and terms of pricing.
Competition continues to be stiff for VeriSign from the likes of Tucows Inc. ( TCX) and others. Hence, we maintain our Neutral recommendation as we believe that most of the positives are already discounted at current levels and the current environment demands caution from the investors.
Our Neutral recommendation is supported by a Zacks #3 Rank, which translates into a short-term rating of Hold.
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