When the cybersecurity giant reports its fiscal fourth quarter results next Tuesday, a key area of focus will be on its revenue strength as the company continues its transition to a subscription model from a product model.
On average, Wall Street is expecting $389.89 million of revenue and 5 cents of earnings per share. By comparison, Palo Alto Networks clocked in $283.88 million of revenue and 28 cents of EPS during the corresponding period a year ago.
Shares were up about 0.5% Thursday early afternoon to $140.99. Palo Alto is down about 19% year-to-date, but over the last two years, it's risen 71%.
The Santa Clara, Calif., enterprise security company will likely report strong fiscal fourth quarter results Tuesday, Aug. 30, thanks largely to improved market demand and subscription revenue growth.
Checkpoints the research firm has observed in the quarter have indicated that demand is growing, which will subsequently create upside in product revenue for Palo Alto, Pacific Crest Securities analyst Rob Owens wrote in a Wednesday note.
"We believe FQ4 marks the beginning of a period of reasonable targets for product revenue, with growth expectations decelerating to the low 20s y/y," he noted.
Other key factors to watch for in the earnings report include margin expansion and the effects of partnerships, according to Owen.
The spending environment in security has been challenging, but Palo Alto has largely been able to navigate it by demonstrating revenue strength, JMP Securities analyst Erik Suppiger cautioned in a Thursday note.
Still, the company is undergoing a shift to subscription services from products that has slightly weighed on revenues and earnings, he explained.
At the same time, Palo Alto has been aggressively pursuing hiring in sales, Suppiger observed, suggesting that the management is confident about the company's long-term opportunity.
Palo Alto's partnership with Amazon.com's (AMZN) - Get Report Amazon Web Services offeringvarious security services to AWS customers is also growing stronger and should help position the security company to benefit from growth in cloud opportunities.
Meanwhile, Palo Alto shares have been fairly volatile this year, especially after reporting its third-quarter results in May when it offered below-consensus guidance.
But the cybersecurity companies as a group have been slipping against the backdrop of a challenging spending environment due to macroeconomic concerns and the seasonality of products due to longer sales cycles. For example, FireEye (FEYE) - Get Report is down about 28% year-to-date. Elsewhere in the sector, activist shareholder Elliott Management is urging Imperva (IMPV) - Get Report to explore a sale.
Still, investors may simply need patience in Palo Alto.
"The company estimates it has penetrated less than 10% of a growing security market, leaving plenty of opportunity still available," Pacific Crest's Owens wrote. Pacific Crest has an overweight rating with a price target of $190.