If you doubted Palo Alto Networks' (PANW) - Get Report dominance in the cyber security group, the company showed why it is the gold standard when it released second-quarter 2016 earnings Thursday that once again beat expectations. It also issued better-than-expected third-quarter guidance.
Preventing cyber criminals and hackers from stealing sensitive data remains a high-growth industry. Even Apple's (AAPL) - Get Reportcontinuing fight with the U.S. government highlights the continuing fight between privacy and security.
With Palo Alto guiding for 45% growth in the third quarter, it's obvious the company knows this threat isn't going away anytime soon.
At $140, the company's shares are down 20% for the year to date. They have a forward price to earnings multiple of 82, or five times the S&P 500 (SPX) index, so the stock is no bargain. However, don't avoid this stock because of the price.
Looking down the road, Palo Alto's projected five-year average annual earnings growth rate of 36% is six times the expected growth rate of the S&P 500 index.
In other words, while there's tons of growth implied in the shares, the company continues to deliver on those expectations. Businesses and government agencies are spending more to protect themselves from hackers, which showed in Palo Alto's earnings, extending its earnings beat streak to six quarters.
The company reported 40 cents per share on revenue of $334.7 million for the quarter that ended January. Analysts expected 39 cents a share on revenue of $318.3 million. So Palo Alto's results translated to year-over-year increases of 110.5% in earnings, while revenue surged 54%. During the quarter, Palo Alto added 2,000 new customers to its already 30,000-strong customer base.
Palo Alto's subscription revenue of $84.3 million grew 68%, its billings surged 62% year over year to $459 million. The billings metric, especially in the tech industry, denotes the strength of future revenue, or commitments to buy. In this case, not only does it imply future confidence that Palo Alto -- raising its guidance to be in a range of $335 million to $339 million, ahead of Street forecasts for $334.9 million -- it also suggest possible market share gains.
In short, it was a dominant quarter. The stock is yet a bargain among cyber stocks, despite its seemingly expensive price. It has a consensus buy rating and there's an implied 42% gain from its average 12-month price target of $200.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.