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Palo Alto Networks Inc. Pops on a Big Quarterly Beat

By Steve Symington - Sep 9, 2015 at 5:04PM

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Make it 5-for-5 for the network-security company. Here's what investors need to know.

At risk of becoming delightfully old hat, shares of Palo Alto Networks (PANW 0.94%) climbed more than 6% in Wednesday's after-hours trading after its fifth consecutive quarterly beat.

Specifically, for network security specialist's fiscal fourth-quarter 2015, revenue rose 59% year over year to $283.9 million. Based on generally accepted accounting principles, that resulted in a net loss of $46 million, or $0.55 per diluted share, compared to a net loss of $0.41 per share in the same year-ago period. On an adjusted basis -- which notably excludes items like stock-based compensation and acquisition expenses -- Palo Alto achieved net income of $25 million, or $0.28 per diluted share, up from adjusted net income of $0.11 per share this time last year.

Analysts were less optimistic going in, with consensus estimates calling for revenue of $256.3 million, and adjusted earnings of $0.25 per share. But to be fair, those figures were near the high ends of Palo Alto's own guidance provided three months ago, when it called for revenue of $252 million to $256 million, and adjusted earnings per share of $0.24 to $0.25.

"Rapidly taking share"
Palo Alto CEO Mark McLaughlin reflected on the latest performance:

We are very pleased with our results for both the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2015. During the year we grew our customer base to over 26,000 customers, expanded our technology partnerships and distribution relationships, enhanced our next-generation security platform with new offerings and achieved $928.1 million in revenue, an increase of 55% year over year. We are significantly outgrowing the market and rapidly taking share.

Make no mistake: As the company chooses to forsake bottom-line profitability in favor of top-line growth, investors should be encouraged that Palo Alto is outgrowing and taking market share from competitors.

"In the fourth quarter," elaborated CFO Steffan Tomlinson, "our land and expand sales model once again drove substantial growth in billings, revenue, and deferred revenue, which all reached new records."

For perspective, Palo Alto's fourth-quarter billings rose 69% year over year to $393.6 million, while deferred revenue climbed 63% to $423.9 million. The company also generated $111.3 million in cash flow from operations during the quarter and ended the period with $1.3 billion in cash and equivalents on its balance sheet.

The highlight reel
That's not to say its strength and growing customer base should come as a surprise. In addition to being named in the "Leaders" quadrant in last quarter's Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Network Firewalls for its fourth consecutive year, this quarter Palo Alto received an "Outstanding" certification from the Technology Services Industry Association for "excellence across all significant modes of technical support." Palo Alto also benefits from close relationships with channel partners, as it hosted more than 500 who chose to participate in its 2016 annual sales training event early last month.

Palo Alto also formed a strategic alliance last month with Tanium -- whose products are already used by more than half the Fortune 100 -- to create a solution that integrates technologies from both companies to automate the otherwise time-consuming task of identifying and preventing modern cyberattacks. Specifically, Palo Alto says its early effort will be to integrate Tanium with Palo Alto Networks' cloud-based WildFire threat prevention service. 

The way forward
For the current quarter, Palo Alto expects revenue in the range of $280 million to $284 million, or growth of roughly 47% at the midpoint, and adjusted earnings per diluted share of $0.31 to $0.32. Both ranges sit above Wall Street's models, which on average called for revenue of $269.6 million, and earnings of $0.31 per share.

Once again, this was yet another solid quarter for Palo Alto in its quest to gain share in a young, burgeoning market. So even with Palo Alto stock up 35% year to date going into today's report, it's no surprise the market is celebrating Palo Alto's latest results.

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