Stocks to Buy as the Network Security Market Continues to Explode

With hackers and whistle-blowing vendor employees continuing to threaten not only national security but business security as well, American and international companies continue to prioritize security within their overall information technology (IT) budgets as advanced threats continue to have an impact on enterprise networks.

Oppenheimer’s group of security analysts continue to believe the drivers for network security are unlikely to change dramatically in the next 12 months. Application control and data-center security remain key areas of concern for many organizations. Advanced persistent threat (APT) solutions are being viewed as increasingly necessary in today’s environment. Oppenheimer has a list of stocks to buy that are leading the way.

Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: CHKP) ranks high on the list of stocks to buy at many of the Wall Street firms that we cover. Currently, its products include network security, data security, mobile security and security management. Along with these, it also offers virtualization security, which ensures cloud services and e-commerce facilities are safe from threats. The Thomson/First Call price objective for this top name is $55.

Fortinet Inc. (NASDAQ: FTNT) has the largest year-over-year revenue growth (16.6%) among the top five network security appliance vendors, according to the recently released International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Security Appliance Tracker. “As a trend, what really stands out from the IDC data is the continual decline of the big, traditional network infrastructure vendors,” said John Maddison, vice president of marketing, Fortinet. “By contrast, network security vendors, such as Fortinet, continue to see strong demand as enterprises move toward high-performance network security solutions that offer state of the art threat protection capabilities at prices that make sense.” The consensus price target for this fast growing company is $21.50.

Sourcefire Inc. (NASDAQ: FIRE) offers the FirePOWER network-based platform that provides their customers with a universal security architecture for Sourcefire next-generation security solutions. FirePOWER’s performance and flexibility continues to be recognized for industry leadership. In its most recent IPS Security Value Map, NSS Labs ranked Sourcefire as the leader in security effectiveness, performance and total cost of ownership. Consensus price target for the stock is $62.

Palo Alto Networks Inc. (NYSE: PANW) booked a loss for the past 12 months but generated $71.8 million of cash. That means they turned 20% of their overall revenue into free cash flow which is outstanding. The company also has arguably the most comprehensive suite of network security system capabilities, helping companies and governments operate their servers without malware, spoofing and other gremlins that can cripple a company’s networks. The consensus price target for this fast growing name is $59. A move to the target would represent almost a 40% gain for investors.

Oppenheimer points out that while Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) continues to lead the overall security appliance market with a 16.7% share, that number has dropped from 18.4% in the prior year period. Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC), with its purchase of McAfee in 2010, and Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL), with its SonicWall product, are also both extremely competitive. The analysts continue to believe however, that explosive growth comes from the smaller, more agile competitors. Growth investors need to target now for tomorrow.