My Timing May Have Been Wretched ...

Well, that hurt.

Not even an hour after the publication of my rebuttal to an analyst's downgrade of Secure Computing (Nasdaq: SCUR  ) , company executives reduced guidance. Thanks, guys. Thanks a lot.

The specifics look bad at first blush. Secure says that first-quarter GAAP revenue will be in the range of $60 million to $61 million, down from earlier estimates of $64 million to $66 million. Non-GAAP revenue is expected to come in between $65 million and $66 million, down from $67 million to $69 million. And billings -- which measure the value of deals booked -- should be $69 million, well short of earlier estimates of $76 million to $79 million.

Even so, the bottom-line impact of the top-line turmoil appears minimal. Fully diluted non-GAAP earnings per share are expected to be between $0.06 and $0.07, compared to earlier guidance of $0.07 to $0.09.

And here's more good news: Gross margin remained steady at roughly 75%, which strongly suggests that Secure isn't making undue sacrifices to win deals away from Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) , Websense (Nasdaq: WBSN  ) , Blue Coat (Nasdaq: BCSI  ) , VASCO Data Security (Nasdaq: VDSI  ) , and other tough competitors.

Cash flow, meanwhile, remains steady. Executives say cash from operations is expected to reach $13 million in Q1, meeting the low end of earlier guidance. Color me reassured; excess cash flow is essential to the investing thesis for this Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick.

What caused the miss? As much as $11 million in slipped deals, 80% to 90% of which executives say will be booked in the second quarter. That's not an unreasonable assumption. Secure Computing does the bulk of its business through partners and with governments and multinational corporations. Selling to these behemoths can take months, as delays are piled upon delays.

Plus, we've seen disappointments before, and Secure usually bounces back in fine fashion. I expect it will again ... even if my timing stinks.

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