December is a time when investors often look to sell, showing a loss in their portfolio to offset any capital gains earned in the calendar year. I reviewed my portfolio this past December for the same reason, and noted that the FireEye (NASDAQ:FEYE) stock I purchased in 2015 was down 70%.
After some consideration, I decided not to sell this cybersecurity company. FireEye has strong leadership, a turnaround plan that is beginning to show results, a promising new comprehensive cloud-based product, and a market opportunity that isn't getting any smaller.
Read on for the details on why I think FireEye will be a winner from here.
An important reason I haven't sold my FireEye stock is that I believe in CEO Kevin Mandia and his ability to deliver on his promises. Mandia has an impressive career completely focused on cybersecurity and a long list of accomplishments. He earned a master's degree in computer forensics and co-wrote two books on responding to cybersecurity incidents, all while working full time.
While at the consulting company he founded, Mandiant, he landed on the cover of Fortune magazine in 2013 when he exposed cyberespionage activity in China. When FireEye bought Mandiant in 2013, he joined the company. Three years later, he was promoted to FireEye's CEO.
As CEO, Mandia's strong results-driven nature has produced significant progress on its twofold plan to right-size the company's cost structure and transform the product portfolio.
The turnaround plan
Mandia's turnaround plan called for a complete overhaul of the disparate appliance-based products that came to the company via multiple acquisitions to a comprehensive cloud-based subscription service. At the same time, he planned to take significant costs out of the business in order make the company profitable.
The company has executed on at least one of these promises and investors are hopeful for success on both fronts. The cloud-based product called Helix has been launched and is winning customers. This week's quarterly report, due on Feb. 8, is expected to contain the company's first-ever non-GAAP operating profit.
The new platform
In its Q3 earnings call, the company said that 71 of its customers have signed on to the Helix platform. This is only a small portion of the company's 5,600 customers, which means there's still significant opportunity. FireEye announced a "seeding" program, allowing customers to experience the new Helix interface even if they are upgrading only part of their systems, which should help accelerate adoption. Since cybersecurity platforms are embedded into a company's information technology infrastructure, it takes a commitment of time and effort from customers to ensure that a replacement (or even an upgrade) is executed properly. This seeding program will allow customers to get comfortable with the platform without having to implement the entire suite.
As the company transitions more of its customer base to the new platform, it will continue to improve the software. As the platform becomes more useful to customers, they will be less likely to switch to another cybersecurity vendor's platform. And as more customers transition to the Helix subscription-based service, it will allow the company to increase its deferred revenue, giving it more stable and predictable revenues.
Now that the company has transitioned to an end-to-end integrated product suite in the cloud, it has an opportunity to expand its customer base even more. The company has been known as the premium-priced product in the market, which limits its customer base to large enterprise clients. The company thinks it can adapt its complex high-priced offering to one that is more value-centric to expand its market into smaller organizations. While this hasn't been completed yet, it shows the company is thinking creatively about how it can grow its market for the long term.
The demand for cybersecurity products will only go up as more companies look to move to sales, customer service, and other company functions online. Well-publicized data breaches and viruses bring attention to the risks of leaving customer data and your network exposed. Markets and Markets has estimated that the cybersecurity market could grow to $232 billion in 2022.
The future for FireEye looks bright. The company has been cutting costs, executing on product innovation goals, and is looking to expand into new customer segments in a growing marketplace. While it doesn't feel good to look at a position that's down significantly, I think there's plenty of upside for this cybersecurity specialist, and I'm willing to hold while Mandia leads the FireEye team on the company's mission to protect its customers.