Can CyberArk Software Ltd Regain Its Mojo?

By Markets Fool.com

Shares of CyberArk (NASDAQ: CYBR) have rallied over 75% from its 52-week low of $31.50 in mid-February, but the stock has stalled out over the past month and still trades below its all-time high of over $73 per share last June.

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Will this cybersecurity stock get its mojo back and keep rallying, or should investors expect concerns about its growth and valuations to hold it back? Let's analyze the company's tailwinds and headwinds to see where it could be headed.

Image source: Getty Images.

These tailwinds could lift CyberArk

CyberArk dominates the niche market of PAM (privileged account management) solutions, which protect systems from insider threats like disgruntled employees. Its PAM solution is the only one certified by the U.S. Department ofDefense, and serves over 2,600 customers worldwide -- including 40% of the Fortune 100 and 17 of the biggest banks in the world.

CyberArk also leads the C3 Alliance, a consortium of tech companies which integrate its PAM solutions into their own security suites. Major members include Symantec, FireEye (NASDAQ: FEYE), and Intel Security. HPE andIBM both recently integrated CyberArk's PAM platform into their own IT security platforms. This means that as data breaches rise across the world, demand for CyberArk's PAM solutions should rise in tandem with perimeter-monitoring solutions like Palo Alto Networks' (NYSE: PANW) next-gen firewall and FireEye's threat detection services.

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Unlike many of its cybersecurity peers, CyberArk is profitable by both non-GAAP and GAAP metrics, thanks to disciplined cost controls. Non-GAAP net income rose 62% annually to $10.5 million last quarter, and GAAP net income improved 31% to $6.4 million. That profitability, along with CyberArk's well-protected niche and clean balance sheet, make the company a strong takeover candidate for larger IT or security companies.

But these headwinds could hurt CyberArk

A key concern is that CyberArk's sales growth is slowing down. Its revenue rose 39% annually last quarter, compared to42% growth in the previous quarter and 70% growth in the prior year quarter. Analysts expect the company to post 32% sales growth this year, down from 56% growth in 2015.

Those figures look healthy, but they don't fully support CyberArk's lofty P/S ratio of 9.9. Palo Alto Networks, for example, is expected to post 33% sales growth this year but trades at 9.4 times sales. Analysts expect FireEye, which trades at 3.7 times sales, to post 16% sales growth this year. CyberArk's trailing P/E of 72 is also much higher than the industry average of 29, and its forward P/E of 43 is high relative to its projected earnings growth of 20% next year. Those heated valuations could limit CyberArk's upside potential over the next few quarters.

CyberArk also expects to spend more on sales and marketing this year as it ramps up its expansion efforts. That's why CyberArk's stock-based compensation expenses, which claimed 8% of its revenues, jumped 248% annually last quarter. If CyberArk doesn't expand cautiously, rising SBC expenses could greatly reduce its GAAP profitability.

CyberArk has a "best in breed" reputation in PAM, but larger rivals are still expanding into the market. The largest of these rivals is CA, a diversified software giant whichcould generate nearly 20 times as much revenue as CyberArk this year. CA could hurt CyberArk by using various bundling strategies to lower prices.

It's still a good long-term play

I believe that CyberArk is still one of the best cybersecurity plays on the market. Its dominant position in the PAM market, disciplined spending, and rising profits make it a much better pick than FireEye or Palo Alto Networks, which are both deeply unprofitable on a GAAP basis due to high SBC expenses.

However, the stock might stall out for a few months due to its slowing sales growth and overheated valuations. I'll continue holding my shares of CyberArk for now, but I'm not in a hurry to add any more shares yet.

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Leo Sun owns shares of CyberArk Software. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends FireEye. The Motley Fool recommends CyberArk Software, Intel, and Palo Alto Networks. 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.