Of the nearly 250 telecom-related names we checked, decliners outnumbered gainers by 2 to 1 -- and that's in a year when the Nasdaq composite was up 6 percent. Part of the problem is that the shakeout still isn't done in telecom. Layoffs are continuing at small and large companies alike, and despite progress on VOIP adoption and fiber-to-the-curb buildouts, the telecom recovery is still too weak to float all boats.
The prices below and percentage gains are based on annual gains, as of market close on December 22.
Enterprise business remains a stronger play than telecom, but we didn't include pure enterprise networking plays. Had we not cast off enterprise security from our list, F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV) would have topped the explosions (priced at $47.00, up 87%), and Websense Inc. (Nasdaq: WBSN) would have made the list ($50.82, up 74%). In the storage realm, Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) would have had a shot as well ($34.04, up 67%).
And while neither routing giant made this list of pains and gains, rivals Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) played out a little drama of their own. Juniper had a banner year, climbing 44 percent to $26.94 and picking up a couple of Leading Lights awards -- including one for best investment potential (see LR Reveals Leading Lights Winners). But Cisco, in a story bemoaned by many an analyst, was down 20 percent this year at $19.36 and couldn't even earn a pop from the new CRS-1 core router -- arguably its most important product announcement in many, many years (see Cisco Sees Big, Bold Growth).
Enough about those guys. Here, in technicolor hindsight, are the stocks to have owned -- or sold short -- in 2004.
From the list of stocks we tracked, no eligible stock grew even 100 percent on the year. By contrast, a gain of 500 percent didn't crack the top five last year. But given the doldrums of telecom and the modest gains seen by Nasdaq overall, these companies had performances to be proud of.
No. 5 Visual Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: VNWK)
- Jan. 1, 2004 price: $2.24
- Dec. 22, 2004 price: $3.45
- Change: +54%
OSS was a hot topic this year -- presaged by a June 2003 Light Reading Insider report (see Insider Details OSS Opportunities). Keep it in mind, because the subject comes up later.
- Visual Networks Reports Better Q2
- Visual Networks Bolsters IP OSS
- OSS Vendors on an Upturn
- Visual Networks Improves in Q4
- Jan. 1, 2004 price: $18.00
- Dec. 22, 2004 price: $28.05
- Change: +56%
Telus's offerings include all the fancy buzzwords of the day, including IP VPNs and VOIP traversing a newfangled IP/MPLS core. Telus Mobility accounted for 37 percent of Telus's revenues in the first nine months of 2004, and the carrier recently announced that it expects that percentage to increase next year.
Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY)
- Jan. 1, 2004 price: $17.70
- Dec. 22, 2004 price: $31.49
- Change: +78%
The impressive part is that Ericsson was down enough to incur a 1-for-10 split in 2002. The stock has sailed northward from there, spurred by major deals including the IPTV win Ericsson might have garnered with BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS).
The company also added to its roster of partnerships, teaming up with France Telecom SA (NYSE: FTE) for IP multimedia services and with Cisco for Class 4 and 5 switch replacement.
- BellSouth Picks IPTV Finalists
- Cisco, Ericsson Join Forces
- France Telecom, Ericsson Partner on IP Apps
- Jan. 1, 2004 price: $18.97
- Dec. 22, 2004 price: $34.60
- Change: +82%
By the way -- rival Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), the analysts' darling, was down 8 percent on the year, at $31.08.
InfoVista SA (Nasdaq: IVTA)
- Jan. 1, 2004 price: $2.93
- Dec. 22, 2004 price: $5.79
- Change: +98%
- InfoVista Launches New OSS
- InfoVista Offers Multiservice Edge OSS
- InfoVista Unveils New Vision
- InfoVista Wins GIG-BE OSS Contract
- OSS Vendors on an Upturn
The stock gains were dampened compared with 2003, but the same can't be said of the collapses. As last year, several companies sagged on continued weak prospects.
Left off this list are liquidations (a 100% decline just isn't as interesting) and a few noncontenders. For example, Turnstone Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: TSTN) fell 89 percent but was officially dissolved last year; the stock continues trading among speculators and/or the very confused. Celeritek Inc. (Nasdaq:CLTK) fell 89 percent as well but dropped most of its telecom-related products last year.
What's left, then are the companies that took the worst hits but remain going concerns. And wow, we had a bit of excitement going into the home stretch today ...
No. 5 VocalTec Communications Ltd. (Nasdaq: VOCL)
- Jan. 1, 2004 price: $4.53
- Dec. 22, 2004 price: $1.45
- Change: -68%
But no! VocalTec edged down just slightly in trading on Wednesday, crossing the finish line just ahead of Redback. It's been a hard year for the VOIP equipment maker (a theme you'll hear again later in this list).
ITC^DeltaCom Inc. (Nasdaq: ITCD)
- Jan. 1, 2004 price: $6.06
- Dec. 22, 2004 price: $1.59
- Change: -74%
Copper Mountain Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: CMTN)
- Jan. 1, 2004 price: $10.77
- Dec. 22, 2004 price: $2.78
- Change: -74%
Verso Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: VRSO)
- Jan. 1, 2004 price: $3.23
- Dec. 22, 2004 price: $0.75
- Change: -77%
Bookham Inc. (Nasdaq: BKHM; London: BHM)
- Jan. 1, 2004 price: $25.00
- Dec. 22, 2004 price: $4.47
- Change: -82%
But components appear to be the last of the crash victims to revive. After shedding its initial ASOC aspirations, Bookham spent the last part of the year announcing layoffs followed by extra layoffs. Along the way, there was a headquarters move to the U.S. and a 1-for-10 stock split that didn't exactly pull an Ericsson.
- Bookham Adds to Layoffs
- Bookham Reincorporated in US
- Bookham Rises on Nortel Assurances
- Bookham Buys Onetta
- Interview: Giorgio Anania, Bookham