Can Splunk, Inc. Go 7-for-7?

By Markets Fool.com

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Image source: Splunk Inc.

Splunk Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLK) is set to release fiscal second-quarter 2017 results this Thursday after the market close. With shares of the data analytics company up more than 20% (as of Tuesday's close)on the heels of itssixth consecutive quarterly revenue beatin May, investors won't be too surprised if Splunk makes it seven straight this week.

Splunk's headline numbers

Nonetheless, for perspective, Splunk's guidance calls for fiscal Q2 revenue between $198 million and $200 million, or year-over-year growth between 33.5% and 34.8%. Trending toward the bottom line, Splunk also told investors to expect adjusted operating margin for the quarter to be between 2% and 3%.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given its track record -- and while we don't pay much attention to Wall Street's quarterly demands -- analysts' consensus estimates predict Splunk will achieve revenue of $200.5 million (slightly above the high end of guidance) and adjusted earnings of $0.03 per share.

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Digging deeper

Of course, Splunk is about more than just its top and bottom lines. So what else should investors be watching this quarter?

First, Splunk typically breaks its results down between license revenue (up 41% year over year last quarter to $101 million) and revenue from maintenance and services (up 57.9% last quarter to $85 million).

Looking further down the statements of operations, note that Splunk still isn't profitable based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), as it consciously chooses to invest instead in growing revenue andtaking market share. As such, expect to see continued aggressive investments in both sales and marketing (up 42.3% to $145.2 million last quarter) and research and development (up 50.7% to $67.4 million).

Splunk should also offer color on its global ambitions. Revenue from international operations stood at roughly 26% of Splunk'stotal last quarter, or a roughly comparable split with the same year-ago period. But going forward, Splunk insists it will keep investing in its international business to continue driving growth on a global scale.

Relatedly, we should watch that cash flow remains healthy, namely at or above Splunk's long-term target for maintaining operating cash flow margin of at least 20%. Last quarter, cash flow from operations grew 24.7% year over year to $35.7 million, or 19.2% of total sales. But during the subsequent conference call, Splunk management also reiterated their expectation that full-year operating cash flow will be around 23% of this year's revenue.

Splunk will also likely tout evidence that its investments are bearing fruit, both in the form of new product releases and new customers. Regarding the latter, for example, Splunk added more than 450 new enterprise customers in fiscal Q1, bringing its total customer base to more than 11,000, with notable new and expanded relationships including Chipotle, Tesco, and World Bank Group. And based on Splunk's press releases since then, we already know among this quarter's customer wins are an expanded deal with Zillow in early May, as well as a multiyear Enterprise Adoption Agreement with Groupon unveiled late last month.

Looking ahead

Finally, depending on the gravity of any out- or underperformance this quarter, as well as Splunk's visibility into the second half of the fiscal year, watch for any revisions to Splunk's full-year guidance. As it stands, that guidance calls for fiscal 2017 revenue between $892 million and $896 million, with adjusted operating margin of around 5%. Again, however, Wall Street wants more, with consensus estimates modeling full fiscal year 2017 revenue of $897.9 million.

In the end, we'll need to hurry up and wait to hear whether Splunk was once again underpromising with the intention of overdelivering. But barring an unforeseen deceleration in Splunk's growth as it makes the most of these early stages in its long-term growth story, investors are right to hope for more of the same market-beating performance this week.

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Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Chipotle Mexican Grill, Splunk, and Zillow Group (A shares and C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.