Palo Alto Networks Falls as Growth Decelerates



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Palo Alto Networks reported fiscal third-quarter 2016 results Thursday after the market close, marking its eighthconsecutive quarterly beat. But thanks to a light outlook as its growth begins to slow, shares are down around 10% in after-hours trading as of this writing.

Let's take a closer look at what the next-gen security company achieved in its latest quarter.


What happened with Palo Alto Networks this quarter?

  • Revenue was above Palo Alto's guidance, which called for a range of $335 million to $339 million, and adjusted earnings per share arrived at the high-end of its per-share outlook of $0.41 to $0.42.
  • Revenue growth was driven by a 33.4% year-over-year increase in product sales, to $162.1 million, and 63% growth from services, to $183.7 million.
  • Billings climbed 60.9% year over year, to $486.2 million.
  • Based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), Palo Alto Networks' net loss widened to $70.2 million, or $0.80 per share, compared to a GAAP net loss of $45.9 million, or $0.56 per share in last year's fiscal third quarter. As a reminder, Palo Alto Networks consciously chooses to forsake bottom-line GAAP profitability in favor of investing to drive its top-line, and gain market in these early stages of growth.
  • Cash flow from operations and free cash flow each rose 95% year over year this quarter, to $170.1 million and $150.8 million, respectively.
  • Palo Alto also extended its breach-prevention solutions to multi-cloud environments and SaaS applications with the introduction of its PAN-OS 7.1 operating system, which included more than 50 feature enhancements for all major cloud environments, including Microsoft Azure.
  • Palo Alto partnered with PwC to design a next-gen security framework that will serve as a guide for customer organizations to establish a breach-prevention-oriented security architecture.
  • Palo Alto entered into an agreement to integrate its next-gen security platform into BT's global portfolio of security services, through which BT customers will benefit from the combination of Palo Alto's breach-prevention platform and the global reach of BT's security services.

What management had to say

Palo Alto CEO Mark McLaughlin stated:

Palo Alto CFO Steffan Tomlinson added:

Looking forward

For the current quarter, Palo Alto anticipates revenue of $386 million to $390 million, representing growth of 43% to 45% over the same year-ago period. That should translate to adjusted earnings per diluted share in the range of $0.48 to $0.50, up from adjusted EPS of $0.28 per share in last year's fiscal Q4. However -- and keeping in mind we typically don't pay much attention to Wall Street's short-term demands -- analysts' consensus estimates predicted fiscal fourth-quarter revenue and earnings at the high-end of both Palo Alto's guidance ranges.

That's not to say that Palo Alto Networks isn't under promising with the intention of over delivering. But it's also no mystery that Palo Alto can't sustain these torrid rates of growth forever as it builds from a continually larger base.

It will eventually need to show that it can translate all that top-line growth to bottom-line profitability -- though that's something I have little doubt it can do considering its long track record of outperformance. For now, while it's no surprise the market is bidding shares down today given this soft guidance, long-term investors should be more than happy with Palo Alto's latest quarterly beat.

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Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. The Motley Fool recommends 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.

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