Plenty of things could happen to Check Point Software (NASDAQ: CHKP) over the next five years. But assuming co-founder and CEO Gil Shwed remains in charge and there are no other major changes, the IT security firm will likely stay on a similar course to the one it has charted for the past several years.
That may not be exciting, but Check Point is ideal for conservative investors. Why? Because its business model translates to predictable quarterly financials, and they're usually good.
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The past is the future
Thanks to a shift in focus Shwed initiated several years ago, last quarter can justifiably be viewed as a bellwether. As usual, Check Point's total revenue growth of 6% to $454.6 million didn't wow investors. But mid- to high-single-digit percentage sales increases are what investors can expect over the next five years.
As it continues its transition to a cloud software subscription model, Check Point continues to build a reliable revenue foundation, as last quarter demonstrated. Though product sales dropped 6% to $128.7 million, subscription sales (and the recurring revenue they represent) soared 22% to $120.3 million. Subscription revenue continues to inch closer to parity with product sales, and will almost certainly do so again this quarter.
When Check Point's $205.6 million in subscription updates and maintenance are added to the mix, 72% of total revenue is predictable and recurring. Check Point isn't the only data security provider building such a revenue foundation -- it's just the best at it. One distinction between Check Point and its peers it that its stable revenue and strict expense management translate to impressive earnings-per-share (EPS) growth quarter in, quarter out.
Analyst darling Palo Alto Networks (NYSE: PANW) ideally illustrates the differences between Check Point and its rivals. Palo Alto reported a record $505.5 million in revenue in its fiscal 2018 first quarter, a 27% increase compared to a year ago. Problem is, its expenses skyrocketed -- again.
Its cost of revenue grew a mind-numbing 40% last quarter to $141.4 million. Operating expenses also jumped 21% to $418.4 million. Despite its strong top line, Palo Alto's EPS actually sank 11% to a loss of $0.70 a share.
Palo Alto isn't alone, both Fortinet and FireEye also spend heavily, though they are making headway in their respective cost-cutting efforts.
By contrast, Check Point's cost of revenue rose all of 3% to $51.8 million last quarter. Operating expenses were also up, but by less than 4% to $229.7 million. The end result was a 17% jump in EPS to $1.16 a share. Better still, rising profitability has become a recurring theme.
Clear sailing ahead
Based on its deferred revenue, Check Point's future is rock solid. As of last quarter, Check Point boasted $1.04 billion in deferred revenue, a 17% improvement from last year. And like its EPS and its subscription sales, unrecognized revenue on the books soars each quarter.
Another indicator that steady growth will continue over at least the next five years can be found in the cybersecurity market broadly. According to one recent study, between 2017 and 2021, a cumulative $1 trillion will be spent on data security. Given the growing number of security breaches occurring around the globe, sky-high growth in the prevention space isn't surprising.
The icing on the cake for investors is that Check Point recently upped its share repurchase program, adding authorization for another $1 billion in stock buybacks. In the third quarter, Check Point had 166.2 million shares outstanding , nearly 6 million less than a year prior. That may not sound like much, but with Check Point's relatively low number of diluted shares, the repurchase program is an added bonus.
Looking for a stock to provide steady, reliable growth? You'd be hard-pressed to find a better alternative than Check Point.
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Tim Brugger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Check Point Software Technologies. The Motley Fool recommends FireEye, Fortinet, and Palo Alto Networks. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.