Inflation has been a persistent problem for stock market investors throughout 2022, and the boosts in interest rates that the Federal Reserve has made in recent months have taken their toll on market indexes, especially the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC -0.13%). High-growth stocks get much of their value from their prospects years or even decades into the future, and rising rates cut the value of future earnings in investors' minds today. Yet Friday morning, investors seemed more optimistic that inflationary pressures might be abating, and that helped send Nasdaq futures to gains of nearly 1% in premarket trading.
Also helping the Nasdaq move higher were a couple of stocks that had seen huge declines. Although the day's gains in shares of DocuSign (DOCU 0.14%) and Zscaler (ZS 2.78%) didn't claw back all of the ground those stocks have lost in the past year or so, the latest financial reports from these two companies indicated that their fundamental business prospects remain intact. Read on to learn more about why shareholders are getting excited about DocuSign and Zscaler again.
A signature report from DocuSign
DocuSign shares moved higher by 17% in premarket trading early Friday morning. The electronic signature specialist reported fiscal second-quarter financial results for the period ending July 31 that instilled renewed confidence in the company's efforts to bolster its growth.
DocuSign's numbers were somewhat mixed, reflecting the ongoing reversion to more normal conditions following the high adoption rate of electronic document handling methods during the early years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Revenue climbed 22% year over year to $622 million, lifted largely by a 23% rise in subscription-based sales. However, billings of $648 million were up just 9% from year-ago levels. Moreover, DocuSign saw significant declines in both profit and cash flow, with adjusted earnings of $0.44 per share falling 6% and free cash flow of $105.5 million down an even steeper 35% from the same quarter last year.
Nevertheless, interim CEO and board chair Maggie Wilderotter highlighted DocuSign's strong execution during a period of transition for the company. As she sees it, DocuSign is in a better position now to capitalize on the $50 billion addressable market for digital agreements, going beyond simple e-signatures to offer a broader range of services to help clients manage their critical documents.
Even with today's gains, DocuSign's stock is still down more than 75% from its highs less than a year ago. That shows how much confidence shareholders have lost in the company, but it also offers a look at how much further the electronic document specialist could rebound in the long run.
Scaling up at Zscaler
Also rising were shares of cybersecurity provider Zscaler, which moved higher by 13% early Friday morning in premarket trading. The company's fiscal fourth-quarter financial report for the period ending July 31 showed renewed high growth rates and proved that Zscaler's underlying business remains robust.
Zscaler saw revenue rise 61% from year-ago levels, weighing in at $318 million. Calculated billings also moved substantially higher, with a 57% rise to $520 million, and deferred revenue topped $1 billion with 62% growth. Zscaler's success also fell through to its bottom line, as adjusted net income of $36 million was up 80% year over year and worked out to $0.25 per share. Operating and free cash flow measures soared, with free cash flow in particular nearly tripling to $75 million.
Investors were also pleased with Zscaler's expectations for fiscal 2023. The company sees revenue rising to as much as $1.5 billion, up from the final figure of $1.09 billion for the just-ended 2022 fiscal year. Adjusted earnings of $1.16 to $1.18 per share would still give Zscaler's stock a hefty multiple, but it would reflect the cybersecurity provider's above-market growth rates.
Zscaler shares are down by more than half from their best levels in late 2021. With higher growth rates than DocuSign and an arguably stronger industry niche in cybersecurity, Zscaler looks like the better opportunity for Nasdaq investors willing to take on the risk of high-growth stocks right now.