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Can Palo Alto Networks Grow Into its Valuation?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- "Hit or miss" is probably the most accurate way to describe the initial public offering market this year.

However, enterprise security darling Palo Alto Networks (PANW - Get Report) is one company of only a handful whose IPO might have been considered a success. After filing an expected trading range of $34 to $37, the company's shares soared to over $55 last July on its first day of trading.

Today the stock sits comfortably at $61 after hitting a 52-week high of $72.61 in early September.

Palo Alto has indeed pioneered what is considered next-generation security along with a platform that is considered one of the most innovative in the industry. Early-on investors have placed a lot of faith in its story.

But since the company is not yet fully established publicly, I wonder if all of this excitement is not premature, and if its valuation is deserved.

In its first quarter as a public company, Palo Alto did what it had to do to affirm investor confidence in its business. For its fiscal fourth quarter, the company saw its revenue jump to $75.6 million -- representing an increase of 88% and topping the $40.2 million it reported in the same quarter of a year ago.

Its net loss for the quarter arrived at $4.6 million on a GAAP basis, 18 cents per share. This compares favorably to its net loss of $6 million in the same period of a year ago.

Overall revenue for fiscal 2012 grew 115% to $255.1 million -- exceeding its 2011 mark of $118.6 million. Calling these numbers impressive would be an understatement.

Not only did the company's revenue soar almost 90% from the previous year, it jumped 15% from its third quarter. In addition to billings, which rose by 57%, the company's product revenue grew by 70% while revenue from services shot up a robust 135%.

For its exceptional performance, the company's president and CEO, Mark McLaughlin offered this:

"The fourth quarter was a strong finish to a great year for Palo Alto Networks. In our first quarter as a public company, we achieved record revenue and grew our customer base to over 9,000 customers. For the year, we grew revenue 115%, clearly outpacing the market and demonstrating the power of our technology."

On the heels of such a performance, it's hard to disagree with that statement. The company was on fire. I only wonder now about its second act as Palo Alto must answer to where it goes from here. Based on revenue and growing demand, the company has products and services for which enterprise customers are willing to pay handsomely.
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