NEW YORK (The Street) – Cyber threats may be on the rise, but FireEye (FEYE) - Get Report shareholders shouldn't feel secure about the company's prospects, given competition from both new entrants and well-established ones.
For the quarter ending in December, analysts will be looking for a loss of $49 cents per share, widening from a 35-cent loss on revenue of $141.49 million, up 147% year over year. For the full year, FireEye is expected to post a loss of $2.09 narrowing from last year's loss of $2.98. Full-year revenue is projected to jump 162% year over year to $424 million.
This means expectations are high for the Milpitas, CA.-based FireEye, which competes with not only Cisco Systems (CSCO) - Get Report but also Palo Alto Networks (PANW) - Get Report . The latter specializes in unified threat management, web gateways, firewalls and intrusion detection, and is growing revenue at 50% year over year. And its next-generation firewall technology has gained traction with corporations, leading to 2014 stock gains of 121%.
While FireEye's dynamic threat prevention platform is posting incredible growth numbers, the results recently released from network security companies like F5 Networks (FFIV) - Get Report and Symantec (SYMC) - Get Report didn't please Wall Street, which should worry FireEye shareholders ahead of the company's results Wednesday. Investors should sell the stock now and wait for the pullback to repurchase their shares.
FireEye stock closed Friday at $36.05, down 1.29%. But the shares are up 14% year to date, beating the broader averages, which have traded flat.
Here's the real risk. Since FireEye shares hit a 52-week low of $24.81 on Oct. 13, the stock has soared 45%, beating both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) and the S&P 500 (SPX) , which are both up just 9% during the span. Will its numbers hold up?
Considering that FireEye shares are already expensive -- trading at 106 times trailing earnings, or more than five times the average trailing price-to-earnings ratio of companies in the S&P 500, according to The Wall Street Journal -- it makes little sense for FireEye investors to press their luck and hold these shares ahead of Wednesday's results. Only bad things can happen.
The stock, which went public last year, surged because of exuberance and increased demand on rising cyber threats.
The good news for FireEye is that it's in a thriving industry. The market for detecting, preventing, and resolving advanced cybersecurity threats is projected to grow in the next several years, according to data by research firm IDC. Roughly 15% of mobile devices will be accessed by biometrics -- such as the fingerprint scanning feature on recent models of Apple's (AAPL) - Get Report iPhones, says the firm. And that figure is projected to grow more 50% by 2020.
This means security vendors will be fighting over a larger pie. But they all can't win. In the meantime, investors have to balance expectations with actual results. With FireEye having already delivered 45% gains in just four months, how much more can it deliver?
In short, for an already-expensive stock to go higher, not only must FirreEye beat expectations that are already high, the company must also raise guidance to support its expensive P/E. That just seems like too much to ask.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.