The market has been mighty displeased with CrowdStrike Holdings (CRWD -0.40%), and its fiscal third-quarter earnings update didn't do much to ease the angst. Shares of the top cybersecurity company are now down by 44% so far in 2022, and down nearly 60% from the all-time high they reached in late 2021.

Yet the underlying business is defying the macroeconomic headwinds and putting up blistering growth rates.  

Don't get me wrong, there are some issues at CrowdStrike that could prevent a quick rebound for the stock. However, bears continue to overlook one key metric that shows CrowdStrike is excelling.

Investors sweat the guidance and stock-based compensation

On the surface, the numbers CrowdStrike reported for its fiscal 2023 Q3, which ended on Oct. 31, were perfectly respectable. Revenue increased by 53% year over year to $581 million, it booked a net loss of $55 million (compared to a net loss of $50.5 million in the prior-year period), and free cash flow increased by 40% to $174 million. The primary factor creating that disparity between the bottom-line loss and its positive free cash flow was, as usual for the company, non-cash employee stock-based compensation.  

The real issue for companies like CrowdStrike, though, is guidance. Not that management portrayed some fast-deteriorating outlook for its business. On the contrary, it reiterated its previously stated guidance for full-year revenue to be in the $2.223 billion to $2.232 billion range, implying growth of about 53% over last year.

The problem is that even after the epic stock price decline, CrowdStrike still trades for an elevated 46 times trailing 12-month free cash flow.

And when a stock carries a premium price tag, Wall Street is always looking for guidance upgrades to justify it. However, with the global economy hitting a soft patch, no such upgrade was forthcoming this time.  

Additionally, some of the more bearish watchers have been quick to point out the high amount of stock-based compensation CrowdStrike doles out to reward its employees and management team. At $374 million through the first nine months of this fiscal year, it's a significant sum of money -- though I'd counter that $374 million represents just 1.3% of CrowdStrike's current market cap of $27.7 billion.

CrowdStrike's fantastic growth on a per-share basis

Again, don't get me wrong, CrowdStrike needs to keep lowering its employee stock-based compensation expenses. And though the company is free-cash-flow positive, it has yet to begin using that free cash flow to start offsetting stock-based comp via share repurchases as many other companies in similar positions do.

Nevertheless, CrowdStrike is still delivering impressive growth on a per-share basis, which is an important measure as it accounts for the dilution caused by issuing new stock to pay employees. Trailing-12-month revenue per share is up 37% so far this year, and free cash flow per share is up over 32%. Zooming out to view the company's progress since its 2019 IPO is even more impressive. Over that span, its revenue per share has grown by 237%, and its free cash flow per share is up by more than 3,700%.  

CRWD Free Cash Flow Per Share Chart

Data by YCharts.

Stock-based compensation and "missed" financial guidance are but signs of the times here. The market in 2022 has been particularly unkind to high-growth stocks like Crowdstrike and many of its peers in the cybersecurity space. The macro issues in play could continue to keep a lid on this stock, especially as long as the Nasdaq bear persists, and the bear doesn't seem likely to go back into hibernation until the Federal Reserve ends or seriously ease up on its interest rate hikes.

But for long-term investors, there's still a lot to like about CrowdStrike stock now that it's trading so far below its peak -- because on a per-share basis, the company's growth is the real deal.