Digital cloud giant Adobe Systems (ADBE) - Get Report will report fourth-quarter fiscal 2015 earnings results after the closing bell Thursday. Known for its popular Acrobat PDF document reader and Photoshop graphic software, Adobe has made patient investors tons of money in 2015. But with tougher comparable quarters coming up, investors would be better served taking some profits now before Adobe issues its business outlook for fiscal-year 2016.
"This stock often trades down after it reports, so be ready, because it is often a terrific buying opportunity as they are very conservative and many don't understand the model," said TheStreet's Jim Cramer, Portfolio Manager of the Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio, of Adobe stock.
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For the quarter that ended November, Adobe is expected to earn 60 cents a share on revenue of $1.3 billion, translating to growth of 66% and 21%, respectively. For the full year, earnings are projected to climb 60% to $2.07 a share, while revenue of $4.8 billion would mark an increase of 15.6%.
At around $91.50 a share, Adobe stock is up about 26% in 2015, while climbing 17% and 27% in the past six months and 12 months, respectively. With these gains, the San Jose, Calif.-based software company has crushed not only the S&P 500 (SPX) index (which traded roughly flat in 2015), but also the iShares North American Tech-Software ETF (IGV) - Get Report (which is up 12% in 2015) -- home to prominent software stocks like Oracle (ORCL) - Get Report and Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Report .
It's true -- Adobe's stock performance would suggest management has done an excellent job executing on its stated objectives of returning value to shareholders, while transitioning the company into a digital cloud juggernaut. The 21% jump in third-quarter revenue, which exceeded the 9% and 11% increases in the second and first quarter, respectively, was a perfect example.
Likewise, the 93% surge in earnings per share, compared to 30% and 47% EPS growth in the second and first quarter, respectively, was nothing short of impressive. Nonetheless, at a price-to-earnings ratio of 93 times trailing earnings, compared to a P/E of 21 for the average stock in the S&P 500 index, there is nothing cheap today about Adobe shares. Not to mention, Adobe's P/E is more than three times the average P/E in the IGV.
What's more, based on fiscal 2016 consensus EPS estimates of $2.79 a share, which assumes 35% EPS growth, Adobe stock is priced at 31 times those estimates, compared to a forward P/E of 17 for the average stock in the S&P 500. This means if Adobe was priced on par with the rest of the market, its shares would be valued today at around $47, not over $91.
And here's the thing: Adobe is projected to grow earnings by an average annual rate of 20% in the next five years. This would mean that even if Adobe were to achieve its earnings growth projection for 2016, earnings are projected to slow from that point on.
From my vantage point, the company's stock performance has already been rewarded for the company's execution, and now's the time to take some money off the table and move on to the next great idea.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.