Overall, 2016 was a difficult year for software growth stocks. For most of these stocks, the year kicked off with a big downturn through early February but broke even by late-March, only to post gains as far out as November. But this was not the end of the story.
With a Trump victory in the U.S. presidential election, investors rotated sectors to ones that could benefit more or may have better growth prospects such as finance, health care or industrials.
However, one key analyst sees software growth stocks as better poised for growth in 2017 than their counterparts. Sentiment in the space has been turning more negative following disappointing October and November quarterly reports from a raft of companies.
The decline in software growth premiums looks overdone. One company that Wedbush is highlighting in particular is Salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM), which has an Outperform rating and an EV/forward revenue ratio of 5.1. That looks quite attractive given the company’s recurring revenue model and the 2017 outlook for 22% revenue growth and improving profitability.
Proofpoint Inc. (NASDAQ: PFPT) was another highlight from the report. Wedbush has an Outperform rating and says it would continue accumulating the stock based on top line momentum and operating leverage. Wedbush is bullish on Proofpoint, considering the outlook for 31% or more revenue growth.
Wedbush is not necessarily expecting sentiment to reverse all of a sudden, but its initial fourth-quarter and December software checks are encouraging, as they suggest that the U.S. election results are causing buyers to increase their spending plans, not decrease them. The firm further thinks recent disappointments from Workday Inc. (NYSE: WDAY), Oracle Corp. (NYSE: ORCL) and others were more company-specific than the management teams were willing to admit.
Wedbush believes that near-term price action could be more subdued for Oracle and Workday, both Neutral-rated. The firm thinks the fundamentals for Oracle continue to be challenging as large customers are increasingly looking to Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), which the firm rates as Outperform. Wedbush is on the sidelines on Workday, as it thinks the company’s new bookings activity is likely decelerating faster than investors are expecting, but shrinking in trading multiples over the past six weeks now make this stock look more fairly valued.
Wedbush gave a couple honorable mentions in the report as well:
We’re also giving honorable mentions to PEGA and PTC as 2017 picks (both Outperform-rated). We’re optimistic that Pegasystems (PEGA, Outperform) management is beginning to take more proactive steps to shift PEGA to a higher mix of recurring revenue and to improve operating efficiency. Despite recent gains, we think PEGA shares still look significantly undervalued considering the company’s growth rate and latent margin potential. For PTC (PTC, Outperform), we like the company’s prospects for subscription growth, emerging position in the Internet of Things (IoT) market, and long-term value creation from the shift to recurring revenue. Also, recent software acquisitions by industrial giants (GE/ ServiceMax, Siemens/ Mentor Graphics) point to the continued relevance of engineering/ design software and PTC’s service lifecycle management (SLM) offerings, especially amidst increasing customer interest in IoT.
Shares of Salesforce were trading at $71.60 on Wednesday, with a consensus analyst price target of $94.43 and a 52-week trading range of $52.60 to $84.48.
Proofpoint shares were at $74.16, in a 52-week trading range of $35.56 to $88.00. The stock has a consensus analyst price target of $88.17.
Shares of Workday were trading at $69.61 on Wednesday. The stock has a 52-week range of $47.32 to $93.35 and a consensus price target of $81.66.
Oracle shares were last seen at $38.78, with a consensus price target of $44.00 and a 52-week range of $33.13 to $42.00.
Amazon traded at $757.28. The consensus price target is $928.53, and the 52-week range is $474.00 to $847.21.