With a Goldman Sachs Upgrade, FireEye May Be the Best Cybersecurity Stock of Them All

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If there is one issue that remains front and center in the corporate and enterprise world right now, cybersecurity has to be at the top of the list. Business should be booming for these cybersecurity stocks. The world data breaches, firewall breaches, data and identification theft and even cyber-ransom have grown and grown. Unfortunately, that has not led to a boom for the cybersecurity stocks.

FireEye Inc. (NASDAQ: FEYE) may find itself to be in the right place at the right time in this ironic state when cybersecurity is in high demand but cybersecurity stocks have floundered. FireEye has received two major analyst upgrades in less than a week. This stock is down significantly over the past year, but the picture is far worse from the high of the past two years and the past five years.

Thursday’s top analyst upgrades and downgrades included FireEye raised to Buy from Sell at Goldman Sachs. The firm raised its price target to $15 from $10, implying some 30% upside. A similar call was made earlier in the week by Merrill Lynch, when it raised that rating to Buy from Neutral, but its target was even more aggressive at $18.

Gabriela Borges of Goldman Sachs is quite bullish on FireEye’s Helix security platform. The analyst believes that this should address many of FireEye’s previous challenges, and it is expected to lower the total ownership costs by as little as one-third to as much as half.

Another benefit for FireEye after mixed guidance was that street expectations in 2017 product sales and billings have been reset with more realistic expectations. The company also has streamlined its marketing effort under a new head of sales. All of this is expected to lead to easier sales execution and to higher free cash flow.

Merrill Lynch’s implied upside was 68%, but that was compared to a prior $10.73 closing price. Needless to say, this has been a good week for FireEye shares. The firm believes the stock offers a unique buying opportunity, with significant upside potential over the next two years. It also cited ultra-low street expectations, a low valuation and a plethora of new solutions and a recent sales leadership refresh. In its report from earlier this week, Merrill Lynch said:

FireEye’s core value proposition is centered around having some of the most advanced threat intelligence that lends its value to three areas of innovation: dealing with network threats, strong position in endpoint protection and above all is the value of analytics and threat management. In addition, FireEye’s incident response and remediation service both stand on its own merits, yet also helps source new solution sales. We identify three key drivers for growth, serving as potential catalysts for the stock: There are 6000 appliances that are due a refresh, representing $200 million of market opportunity. New products: cloud MVX, Smart grid, Helix, enhancements to FireEye-as-a-Service and the next gen endpoints. Third, improvements to its go-to-market, recently adding new sales leadership, removing sales capacity constraints, and substantially reducing the channel partner conflict. We think the Street largely ignores management’s guidance for growth resumption in the second half of 2017, which is an opportunity for a positive surprise.

24/7 Wall St. likes to offer both sides of the coin when there are wildly bullish analyst calls. After all, analysts are not omniscient. and they are often just flat-out wrong in their assessments. Also, we wouldn’t want you thinking that we just believe an outcome will occur because one or two smart people say something.

FireEye was a $50 stock briefly in 2015 and it was at one time an $80 stock in 2014.

What investors should consider is that FireEye has a bad history of late when it comes to execution. Maybe the new initiatives will help, but sometimes it can take a long time to recapture investor confidence. Another consideration is that there are enough cybersecurity players out there that a win by one company often comes at the direct expense or loss of a rival.

Another issue worth considering is that FireEye is not profitable, so technically all of its existing business and onboarding of clients comes at a loss, even if the company manages to be cash-flow neutral or positive. Thomson Reuters does not have a consensus positive earnings year until 2019, when the company is expected to post $0.31 in per share on an adjusted basis. It is still expected to post a GAAP loss, at −$0.89 per share, in 2019.

Now you have heard both sides of the FireEye coin. Its shares were last seen up 8% at $12.42 on Thursday in midday trading. Its 52-week range is $10.35 to $18.73, and its consensus analyst price target is now $13.96. The company’s market cap of $2.2 billion compares to a 2017 consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters of almost $723 million in revenues — growing to $880 million in 2019.