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Network gear maker Infoblox hits life low on weak forecast

(Reuters) - Shares of Infoblox Inc slumped 41 percent to their life low on Friday, a day after the network equipment maker warned of a lower-than-expected profit for the fourth quarter, hurt by contract delays and a slowdown in customer additions.

At least five brokerages lowered their rating and eight cut their price target on Infoblox's stock, citing uncertainty around the company's new sales strategy as IT customers prioritized spending on network security over automation.

Analysts also highlighted concerns that any turnaround in Infoblox's fortunes, which could last more than a year, would not be led by its chief executive of nearly 10 years, Robert Thomas, who said on Thursday that he would step down.

More than $450 million was wiped off the company's market value when the stock hit a life-low of $12.165 on Friday. The lowest target price set on the stock was $14.50, by D.A. Davidson, by midday Friday.

"With the sales effort in transition, and a slowing of growth in the general IP address management market in favor of other IT priorities, we believe it will be several quarters until a strong revenue growth path re-materializes for BLOX," D.A. Davidson's Mark Kelleher wrote in a note.

The brokerage had a "neutral" rating on the stock, similar to most other brokerages. No brokerage had a "sell" rating.

Infoblox said on Thursday it expected to break even or earn up to 2 cents per share on an adjusted basis in the quarter ending July. Analysts on average were expecting 6 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Pacific Crest's Brent Bracelin said there was no "quick and easy fix" for the slowdown in orders that began last October.

Wedbush Securities analyst Sanjit Singh said a turnaround could take anything between three to six quarters as Infoblox could take up to nine months to book revenue from a sale.

Analysts also raised concerns as to how the company would navigate the competitive network automation market after CEO Thomas left. Infoblox did not say when Thomas would step down.

"Perhaps the most disappointing development was CEO Robert Thomas announcing his resignation," UBS said.

Shares of Infoblox have fallen about 38 percent this year to Thursday's close of $20.52. At that price the stock was more than three times it worth, according to StarMine's intrinsic valuation model, which takes analysts' five-year estimates and models the growth trajectory over a longer period of time.

The stock is also expensive. At Thursday's close, Infoblox traded at 59.9 times forward earnings, higher than an sector median of 18.4 times, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.

(Reporting By Lehar Maan in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza)

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