Call me sentimental. Call me a sap. Call me crazy. But I love Secure Computing (Nasdaq: SCUR). Here's why.

  1. It's easily misunderstood. Briefing.com reported that Secure missed estimates for fourth-quarter revenue. Not true. This maker of data-security products reports non-GAAP numbers to accurately portray the performance of its acquired businesses. On that basis, Secure's $69.9 million in revenue easily beat the average estimate of $68 million.
  2. Businesses can't compromise on security. And they aren't compromising. Secure Computing's chief financial officer, Tim Steinkopf, told analysts in the conference call that his company booked seven seven-digit deals -- two of which required some short-term price cuts that affected gross margin -- and 131 six-figure deals in Q4. Both were new records, set in a time of massive economic uncertainty, and in spite of top competitors such as Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), Websense (Nasdaq: WBSN), and EMC's (NYSE: EMC) RSA business unit.
  3. Cash flow, cash flow, cash flow. Thanks to excellent free cash flow, Secure paid off $44 million in debt during 2007, including more than $12 million in the final quarter of the year.

Growth, too, is going gangbusters. Secure expects per-share earnings to rise by 45% to 50% over each of the next two years. Revenue, on a normalized, non-GAAP basis, is expected to improve by 13.7% to $295 million.

Why the discrepancy? Margins. With each passing year, Secure is becoming better at squeezing cash from its operations. Behold:

Metrics

2007

2006

2005

2004

Non-GAAP revenue

$259.4

$193.2

$109.2

$93.4

Free cash flow

$41.1

$24.3

$25.0

$12.2

FCF margin

15.8%

12.6%

22.9%

13.1%

Source: Secure Computing earnings reports. Numbers in millions.

A rich market opportunity. Excellent and growing free cash flow. Rapidly rising margins. Warms the heart, doesn't it?

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of Secure Computing at the time of publication. The Motley Fool has a market-beating disclosure policy.