Shares in Palo Alto Networks (NYSE: PANW) surged 8.2% on Wednesday after releasing strong results on Tuesday, though the stock did close well off its highs. Analysts were upbeat about the results, with several immediately reiterating buy recommendations.
PANW’s Performance By the Numbers
The cybersecurity company announced 2nd quarter revenue of $711.2 million, up 30% year on year and $29 million ahead of consensus estimates. Non-GAAP quarterly EPS of $1.51 were $0.29 ahead of estimates, while GAAP EPS was negative $0.03, but still ahead of consensus estimates.
Product revenue grew 33% over 12 months, to $271 million, while revenue from services came in at $439 million.
The non-GAAP operating margins for the quarter was 24.6%, close to the upper end of the range PANW has achieved in prior years. This was also well ahead of what analysts were expecting.
Notably, the company also announced a share buyback plan of up to $1 billion, which could reduce the float by 4 to 5%. Palo Alto currently holds about $3 billion in cash, so it can also make new acquisitions, though no potential targets were mentioned.
Q3 Guidance Timid Given PANW’s Current Position
Guidance for the next quarter and year seemed conservative, with total revenues expected to dip very slightly. For the 3rd quarter, management guided total revenue at between $697 and $707 million, just ahead of Wall Street consensus. Third quarter EPS are expected to be between $1.23 and $1.25, roughly in line with consensus estimates. The next set of results will also include costs related to the acquisition of Demisto.
The company made 5 acquisitions worth over $1 billion over the past year, which means it now has a wide-ranging portfolio of products and services to capitalize on growing concerns about cybersecurity.
Companies are having to devote increasing resources to cybersecurity and the range of software required to adequately protect a business can become daunting. PANW has now managed to position itself as a single vendor that can meet all a firm’s cybersecurity needs, something that should give it a strong competitive advantage. The new acquisitions are also helping the company grow the share of revenue coming from recurring subscriptions, rather than one-off hardware sales.
Future Returns Possible – If You Have Patience
The results were very solid and point to a healthy future for the company, and those who bought PANW into November’s weakness have been handsomely rewarded. However, investors may want to temper their enthusiasm in the short term. The stock is up 59% from November’s lows, and as a favourite among momentum traders, many may have already jumped on the bandwagon.
Palo Alto has a habit of being conservative on guidance and then comfortably beating those results. Large investors know this and that’s one reason the stock often rallies into earnings season and then drifts sideways or slightly lower.
For these reasons, many of the likely buyers may already be long. Analysts are now looking to price targets between $275 and $305, but patience may be required before those targets are reached.