People are scared. And in some ways, they’re especially scared when they use their computers.
This has made cybersecurity stocks one of the hot sectors of 2018.
Cybersecurity, however, is a fast-moving business. Breakthroughs happen constantly. New niches develop. Investment must be constant, and failure is not an option. A company’s reputation is everything.
These stocks are not cheap. Even the “cheapest” can sell for 10 times the previous year’s sales. This means that, ironically, when investors lose their appetite for risk, even the best-run cybersecurity stocks can fall in price.
With all those caveats in place, and knowing that our Will Healy recently listed three great names in cloud security, I’m here to offer you three other security names that are also worthy of attention
Among the top cybersecurity stocks, Fortinet (NASDAQ:FTNT) is considered “cheap.”
Cheap is relative.
With a market cap of nearly $14 billion on 2017 sales of $1.43 billion, Fortinet is not cheap in a conventional sense. But it is profitable, having delivered $90 million in net income over the first two quarters of 2018, on $840 million in revenue. Fortinet next reports earnings on Nov. 1 and is expected to deliver 24 cents per share of net income on revenue of $451 million.
Fortinet’s balance sheet shows no long-term debt but the company has $972 million in the bank, and it delivered nearly $600 million in operating cash flow during 2017, and another $280 million in the first half of 2018.
Fortinet is in the firewall market. Its use of artificial intelligence to stay ahead of hackers is helping it win market share. Until the recent fall in tech stocks it had a gain of over 100% on the year, but its gain as of Oct. 10 was still 83%, indicating the risk in the sector and the steady performance of the company.
As the appetite for risk in the market has fallen, so have the shares of Proofpoint (NASDAQ:PFPT), which offers security for incoming data streams — like e-mail — as a service.
Shareholders who have been in the stock for two years still have a 28% gain, but since late July they have been moving down steadily, from a high of $126 per share to their Oct. 10 opening bid of $95.29.
Proofpoint is not just relying on its own programmers for growth. It is also buying other companies, like Wombat Security Technologies, which it acquired in March. Wombat specializes in phishing simulations and training and added about $30 million in revenue and $4 million in cash flow to this year’s results.
This followed last year’s acquisition of Cloudmark, which delivers e-mail security to Internet Service Providers and is now part of the company’s Nexus platform.
Acquisitions and growth both cost money, so that despite sales growing 38% last year and on track for another big gain in 2018, Proofpoint’s lack of profit has hurt the stock. Losses of $46 million for the first half of the year could be stomached, given positive operating cash flow, if there were a greater appetite for growth over risk. The change in market psychology has hurt. Investors are expecting another loss, 33 cents per share, on revenue of $181 million when it reports earnings Oct. 25.
Despite the fall in the shares, however, analysts are not giving up on Proofpoint. Of 28 currently following the stock, 25 have it on their buy lists.
CyberArk (NASDAQ:CYBR) created the category of privileged access security, offering special attention to specific corporate data accounts. This has driven the stock to over 60% gains so far in 2018, but as the appetite for market risk has cooled, so have the shares.
CyberArk has a market cap of $2.5 billion on 2017 sales of $261 million, up 21% from a year earlier, and it’s on track for another 20% revenue gain in 2018. It brings about 10% of that revenue to the net income line, and that has been increasing in recent quarters. For the third quarter, which will be reported Nov. 7, analysts are expecting 8 cents per share of earnings on almost $79 million in revenue.
As rivals like Beyond Trust and Centrify have been acquired, and taken private, analysts have found CyberArk shares more attractive, with 14 of 19 now having a buy rating on the stock and price targets rising to $90 per share, from its Oct. 10 opening price of about $70. Morgan Stanley is among the new bulls , upgrading it to overweight and noting that it can now offer its product as a subscription service inside the Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) Web Services cloud marketplace.
Despite all the good news, CyberArk will remain a bargain until risk appetite returns to the tech market. Those who get out when a sector is cold can often benefit when it gets hot again.
Dana Blankenhorn is a financial and technology journalist. He is the author of a new mystery thriller, The Reluctant Detective Finds Her Family, available now at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn. As of this writing he owned shares in AMZN.