FireEye Inc (NASDAQ:FEYE) has certainly been catching fire lately. Since mid-March, the shares have gained more than 40%. This has actually been better than stocks like Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL).
So what’s going on? Well, CEO Kevin Mandia has done a great job in stabilizing FEYE and improving the product line.
Note that Mandia is one of the thought leaders of the cybersecurity industry. Early in his career, he served in the United States Air Force as a security officer and then as a cybercrime investigator in the Air Force Office of Special Investigation. He would also go on to co-write two books on cybersecurity.
But he also has great entrepreneurial chops. He founded Mandiant, which he sold to FEYE in 2014.
Impressive, right? Absolutely. But despite all this, investors should still be cautious. There still remain serious issues with FEYE — and that ramping growth could prove difficult.
So what are the factors for investors to consider? Let’s take a look at three:
FEYE Stock No.1: Turnarounds Are Rarely Quick
A key factor in the rally in FireEye stock has been the recent Q1 report. It showed nice progress, beating the Street on the top and bottom lines.
But it can be dicey to base the progress of a turnaround on just a single report. The fact is that FEYE is in the midst of a major transition of its business — going from charging licensing fees to a subscription model. No doubt, this is the right move for the company. Yet as seen with other companies like Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADSK) and Adobe Systems Incorporated (NASDAQ:ADBE), the process can take a few years.
There needs to be major changes in the organization, especially with the sales organization. What’s more, the revenues for a company will usually lag because the subscription model only allows for recognition of sales on a prorated basis.
But it is also important to keep in mind that Q1 for FEYE hinged on the closing of four major deals on the last day of the quarter. If this did not happen, the company would have likely suffered a miss, which probably would have hit the stock price. Consider that Q1 saw only a 3% increase on the top line.
FEYE Stock Issue No.2: Competition
In light of the massive size of the cybersecurity market, it’s no surprise that there are thousands of tech vendors chasing the opportunity. Granted, many of them are niche operators or low-scale players.
But there are definitely plenty of top-notch firms that continue to develop cutting-edge products. Just some include Proofpoint Inc (NASDAQ:PFPT), Palo Alto Networks Inc (NYSE:PANW), Fortinet Inc (NASDAQ:FTNT) and Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ:CHKP). And yes, there are mega tech companies that have strong cybersecurity business units like Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO), International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT).
This kind of brutal environment makes it tough for a company like FEYE to rise above the noise. Besides, as it strives to make its own move to the cloud, rivals are already looking at next-generation approaches. Finally, FEYE has been aggressively reducing its operating expenses, which makes it even tougher to get an edge.
FEYE Stock Issue No.3: The Trust Factor
There’s little doubt that cybersecurity is a priority for many companies as well as governments. As we become more reliant on technologies, there needs to be systems in place to effectively deal with the threats.
And unfortunately, it seems that the environment is getting worse and worse. According to the latest cybersecurity report from Symantec Corporation (NASDAQ:SYMC), there have been a whopping 7.1 identities compromised during the last eight years.
Because of all this, there is likely to be continued robust demand for cybersecurity offerings. But for investors, it is important to consider that the lion share of the opportunity will likely be focused on the best-of-breed companies. So this can be a challenge for a company like FEYE since it is trying to retool its product line. At the same time, it must deal with its past problems and missteps, which have engendered skepticism from potential customers.
As with any tech company, FEYE must prove that it can innovate and provide the kinds of technologies that solve customer problems. Yet the company is still in the early stages of this transformation — and so there should be some wariness from investors.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook and is the author of various books, including All About Commodities, All About Short Selling and High-Profit IPO Strategies. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.