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Why Palo Alto Networks, Inc. Stock Is Down 26.2% in 2016

By Steve Symington – Jul 19, 2016 at 11:00AM

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The next-gen security company is still reeling from last quarter's underwhelming forward guidance.

Image source: Palo Alto Networks Inc.

What: Shares of Palo Alto Networks Inc. (PANW -1.94%) have fallen 29.6% so far in 2016, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence, primarily driven by disappointing guidance following the next-gen security specialist's fiscal third-quarter 2016 report in late May. 

So what: To be fair, it didn't help that the broader market pulled back hard to start the year, dragging down high-flying tech stocks like Palo Alto -- shares of which climbed more than 38% in 2015 -- along with it.

And Palo Alto's actual fiscal Q3 results were solid. Revenue increased 47.7% year over year, to $345.8 million, while both adjusted net income and adjusted earnings per share rose more than 80%, to $38.5 million and $0.42, respectively. For perspective, Palo Alto's guidance only called for revenue of $335 million to $339 million, with earnings per share of $0.41 to $0.42. That also marked the eighth straight quarter the company managed to exceed expectations. 

Palo Alto CFO Steffan Tomlinson attributed the company-record quarter to "robust new customer additions and expansion in existing accounts," particularly within its subscription services, which in turn propelled growth as Palo Alto's now more than 31,000 customers increase investments in its Next-Generation Security Platform.

For the current (fiscal fourth) quarter, however, Palo Alto told investors to expect revenue of $386 million to $390 million, good for decelerated year-over-year growth of 36% to 37%, with adjusted earnings per share of $0.48 to $0.50, up 71% to 78% over adjusted EPS in 2015. Analysts, on average, were expecting Palo Alto's outlook for revenue and earnings per share to be near the high end of both its official guidance ranges.

Now what: It might seem silly to penalize any business for telling investors to expect such still-impressive growth. But given its long track record of underpromising and overdelivering, it's also not uncommon to see investors' high hopes dashed -- albeit often temporarily -- in these cases. What's more, during the subsequent conference call management noted while their guidance does account for "robust pipeline coverage and strong demand," it also adjusts for today's volatile macroeconomic environment after lapping an exceptionally strong fiscal Q4 performance in the same year-ago period.

In the end, it's not surprising to see Palo Alto Networks stock depressed following this confluence of events. But considering its underlying business remains strong, I suspect Palo Alto Networks' perceived weakness won't last. For investors willing to buy now and watch its long-term growth story continue to unfold, I think Palo Alto Networks has plenty of room to rise from here.

Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Palo Alto Networks. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Stocks Mentioned

Palo Alto Networks Stock Quote
Palo Alto Networks
PANW
$166.69 (-1.94%) $-3.30

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