Stock market investors have faced a tough environment to navigate. Between all the macroeconomic factors at play and news at the individual company level, it has been difficult to get a sense of the overall direction of the financial markets. After solid gains earlier in 2023, stocks seem to be limping their way toward year-end with plenty of uncertainty.
Yet a couple of forces have benefited certain stocks. Improving financial results have sometimes been a catalyst for gains, as shipping giant FedEx (FDX 0.21%) is seeing Thursday morning. An acquisition bid can also give a stock a huge lift all at once, and shareholders in Splunk (SPLK 0.27%) are seeing firsthand what can happen when a major player in the technology industry like Cisco Systems (CSCO -0.61%) gets interested in a smaller peer.
FedEx works to contain its costs
Shares of FedEx rose nearly 5% early Thursday morning. The delivery company reported fiscal first-quarter financial results for the period ended Aug. 31, and investors were generally satisfied with the mixed numbers from the company.
FedEx did see its revenue shrink significantly, falling 7% year over year to $21.68 billion. However, adjusted net income climbed almost 30% to $1.16 billion, producing adjusted earnings of $4.55 per share, up from $3.44 per share in the year-ago period.
CEO Raj Subramaniam called out extraordinary performance at the FedEx Ground unit, which generated the vast majority of the company’s overall income and produced operating margins in excess of 13%. Meanwhile, the Express segment had much smaller margins, but it still made money on an operating basis and showed some benefits from cost-cutting measures.
Investors were also pleased at projections for FedEx’s performance throughout fiscal 2024. The company now sees adjusted earnings weighing in at between $17 and $18.50 per share, including a possible $1.90-per-share boost from its business optimization efforts. Restructuring has taken a while to implement, but shareholders are now starting to see the rewards that FedEx is reaping from its work.
Cisco aims to pick up Splunk
Elsewhere, shares of Splunk soared almost 20%. The analytics and cybersecurity specialist got a takeover bid from Cisco that highlighted the importance of tech platforms in the current economic environment.
Cisco and Splunk announced early Thursday that they had reached agreement on an acquisition. The deal values Splunk at $28 billion, with shareholders to receive $157 per share in cash for their Splunk stock. That’s more than 30% above Splunk’s closing price on Wednesday, reflecting a sizable premium to try to get the deal done without inviting rival bids.
Cisco believes that the combination will help it in its quest to provide next-generation AI-enabled security and data observation software. The networking giant already has its own portfolio of products that offer analytics and cybersecurity capabilities, but adding Splunk will be a big step forward in providing clients with the best possible software platform.
Yet investors seem a little skeptical about whether the deal will actually go through. Even after the big jump in Splunk’s stock, the share price remains about 9% below Cisco’s offer. Although some of that discount represents the time it will take to close the acquisition, a portion also reflects at least the potential for antitrust scrutiny in a regulatory environment that has been hostile toward recent merger proposals. With Splunk having performed well lately, long-term investors might well have mixed feelings about whether they want a quick payout over the prospects of participating in Splunk’s potential success for years to come.