When a stock shoots sharply higher, be it in just a day or in a week, investors should ask why. More importantly, if the stock’s rise is justified and there is upside potential, value investors do not need to wait for the stock to dip. Last week, the stock for enterprise cybersecurity company Proofpoint, Inc. (NASDAQ:PFPT) rose 17% on the week after it reported strong fourth-quarter earnings. Proofpoint stock is up more than 30% this month.
PFPT stock traded as low as $80 in early January and as of this writing is trading at $118. So clearly, an explanation is needed.
Proofpoint stock began its slow decent in mid-2018. By October, the company included news in its Q3 report that Proofpoint’s president and COO, Klaus Oestermann would be leaving after just being appointed in July 2018. That sent PFPT stock down more than 10% on October 25. Markets completely ignored the beat in subscription revenue Q4 guidance that was above consensus.
Strong Fourth Quarter
For Q4, Proofpoint reported non-GAAP earnings of 51 cent that easily beat estimates of 35 cents. (GAAP earnings, however, came in at a loss of 39 cents per share.) Revenue grew 198.5 million, up 35% from the previous year. CEO Gary Steele re-affirmed the company’s confidence in sustaining business momentum. He said:
“We are well-positioned, with tremendous market momentum as we enter 2019. I believe that our people-centric approach to cybersecurity will be a game-changer, and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity in front of us.”
In addition to strong revenue, Proofpoint reported a billings increase of 43% year-over-year to $269.9 million. Gross profit rose sharply to $145.5 million, up from $106.4 million last year. On a GAAP basis, the firm lost $21 million. The GAAP numbers include shares associated with the company’s convertible notes, plus a $1 million cash expense. Non-GAAP, it earned 51 cents a share, or $29.1 million.
Why Investors Are Buying PFPT Stock
Proofpoint is in the cyber-threat detection and protection market. And it is not the only firm in its sector that did well in the quarter. After months of underperformance, Symantec Corporation (NASDAQ:SYMC) rallied more than 10% when it, too, reported an double earnings beat.
And Proofpoint is a more stable, steady performer than SYMC. Proofpoint has a suite of advanced threat solutions, which it calls its TAP offering or Targeted Attack Protection. The company won a number of big clients during the quarter. This includes a fortune 100 airline and a Fortune 500 financial services firm.
If PFPT stock is just starting to gain momentum, the stock clearly has plenty of upside ahead. Based on market capitalization, Proofpoint is half the size of Symantec — that’s a ton of room to run in.
Proofpoint Growth Catalysts
Proofpoint will very likely beat expectations in the next quarter as well. As enterprises migrate to Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Office 365, Proofpoint has a full suite of security and compliance solutions that will protect new generations of cloud systems and infrastructure. And customers are embracing the TAP solution because the firm offers protection for legacy technology and the newer, cloud-based platforms.
Proofpoint’s renewal rate validates high customer satisfaction levels, and right now, renewal rates are clocking in above 90%. This in turn will lead to higher growth in 2019 and beyond. Add-on sales also boosted Q4 numbers — representing around half of all new revenue booked last year. Looking ahead, emerging products will also drive more business.
The Bottom Line on Proofpoint Stock
With its expanded range of products, Proofpoint’s total addressable market expanded to over $5 billion. And so long as people need protection from email, cloud and social channels, the market size will keep growing. So in the long term, I think things look good for PFPT.
However, right now, PFPT stock trades at close to the average analyst price target of $121. And with the stock trades at a price/sales ration three times higher than larger competitor Symantec, investors might want to wait for a pullback, perhaps near the $100 range, before buying.
Disclosure: As of this writing, the author did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.