VMware (NYSE:VMW) posted its fourth-quarter earnings results this evening. And the virtualization software and cloud infrastructure giant kept its win streak alive by edging Wall Street's profit projections for the sixth straight quarter. Investors were happy with the news, at least initially. The stock gained 4% immediately following the announcement.
Let's take a closer look at VMware's business results.
Non-GAAP earnings rose 7% to reach $467 million, or $1.08 per share. Analysts were looking for $1.06 in per share profit. More important than a slight EPS beat, though, is the fact that sales climbed a healthy 16% to $1.7 billion. That was enough to put VMware over $6 billion in revenue for the year. Fourth-quarter growth also came on top of an 18% sales gain in the prior quarter and a 17% gain in the second quarter of 2014.
For the full year, VMware grew sales by 16% to that record $6 billion while profits improved by 5% to $1.54 billion. Cash flow was down significantly from the prior year, though, thanks to heavy spending on acquisitions like AirWatch.
Company executives sounded optimistic about how much demand AirWatch and the rest of the product pipeline can attract for VMware in the year ahead. AirWatch recently passed 15,000 customers, or about twice the size of its closest competitor. Management also highlighted momentum in its network visualization platform, called NSX, and in virtual data center growth around the world.
Overall, Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Chadwick said in a press release, VMware's portfolio of products "is experiencing significant customer momentum and driving strong growth into 2015." Management didn't provide a sales outlook, but its comments suggest that it sees at least another solid quarter ahead in terms of demand.
That demand strength might explain why VMware announced a new share repurchase plan authorized to spend as much as $1 billion buying back stock over the next three years. Today's authorization effectively doubles the plan that management announced last August, and it should be enough to send VMware's share count lower through 2017, even with the ongoing dilution from its stock compensation payments.
Some investors might prefer VMware keep more of its cash hoard on the books. But it's hard to fault management for their timing on this buyback plan. VMware's stock is 30% below the high set last April despite strong sales and profit growth since that time. Funding for the increased stock buybacks won't be hard for VMware to find, either. Cash and short term investments rose to $7 billion in the quarter that just closed, up from $6 billion the prior year.