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Why Tableau Software, Inc. Fell Today

By Anders Bylund - May 6, 2016 at 1:37PM

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The data analysis expert presented a classic beat-and-raise performance -- and share prices plunged anyway.

Image source: Tableau.

What: Shares of Tableau Software (DATA) are trading more than 12% lower today following the release of strong first-quarter results. Yes, you heard me.

So what: In the first quarter, the data analysis expert's sales rose 32% year over year to land at $172 million. Analysts would have settled for $164 million. On the bottom line, Wall Street was looking for a $0.09 loss per share, compared to adjusted earnings of $0.08 per share in the year-ago quarter. Instead, Tableau broke even.

Looking ahead, management expects second-quarter sales of roughly $193 million, with the high end of this range sitting some 30% above the corresponding 2015 period's result.

The company also raised its full-year revenue guidance from roughly $840 million to $845 million. Earnings for the full fiscal year are now seen at approximately $0.51 per diluted share, up from $0.29 per share. Both of these targets are more optimistic than current analyst views.

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Now what: Tableau is one of those high-flying growth stocks that analysts and investors never seem to find a fair value for. This was a classic beat-and-raise quarter, which normally would push share prices higher. But even so, investors were hoping for a larger earnings beat, even more impressive forward-guidance figures, and maybe a helping of ice cream with unicorn sprinkles as well.

In short, this company will never quite satisfy those growth-hungry analysts and shareholders, and even a strong report isn't guaranteed to raise Tableau's share prices -- not until its lumpy results start stabilizing, giving Wall Street an easier target for each quarter.

Meanwhile, Tableau's sales and free cash flows are skyrocketing. The stock still looks expensive in many ways, but those nosebleed valuation metrics are coming back to earth. Share prices have fallen more than 50% over the last year.

Give Tableau another couple of quarters to settle down and start delivering more predictable results. One of these days, it might become an investable stock with valuations that don't trigger nightmares.

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