Workplace killjoy Websense
In line with preannounced guidance, the company reported $31.7 million in revenue and $51.8 million in billings -- both all-time highs. Deferred revenue, a valuable corroborator of future growth potential, was up to $90.7 million, from $78.6 million in the third quarter and $65.5 million a year ago.
Although some people have feared that Websense would start locking customers into longer contracts, and thereby lose the ability to raise prices more often, one-year renewal rates are staying pretty consistent, at a rate of about half of all subscriptions. What's more, the average contract value now stands at $8,300, up nicely from $7,200 a year ago.
Despite the company's success, though, there is still a sizable short position in Websense shares. While competition is an ever-present threat for software vendors, the market for Internet management software is expanding rapidly, and the overseas markets aren't even close to full penetration. What's more, hackers, spammers, and employees are endlessly creative, and all of their efforts virtually guarantee that Websense will continue to be able to sell updates, expansions, and add-ons for clients.
On a separate issue, Websense announced that it would begin a search process to find a replacement for CEO John Carrington around 2006. The company should have no problem finding a suitable successor. Meanwhile, the current CEO has done an excellent job. To put his achievements in perspective, consider this: Of the 140 companies to go public in the first quarter of 2000, Websense is one of only seven to have a market value higher than the initial public offering.
And it's not as though Websense's success has gone unnoticed -- these shares have nearly doubled from their 52-week lows and trade at an enterprise-value-to-free-cash flow multiple of roughly 15. But while the company's growth momentum appears quite strong, the shares aren't cheap, and the mere whisper of disappointment can hammer the shares in the short run. Nevertheless, aggressive Fools looking for a little spice in their portfolio should take a closer look at these shares. After all, Big Brother may be watching.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson, CFA, has no ownership interest in any stocks mentioned.