Merrill Lynch Raises Price Targets on Top Cybersecurity Stocks to Buy

Every single day brings another security breach, and the top cybersecurity stocks jump again. Recently the Houston Astros baseball team was hacked, and the St. Louis Cardinals are the alleged perpetrators. The bottom line? This is not going away anytime soon, if ever.

In a new research report, Merrill Lynch does what probably should be expected. Because of the jump in stock prices for these top stocks to buy, the firm raises the price targets. The firm’s analysts say flat out that they continue to believe that stock investors should focus on security as a top theme for 2015, given the robust spending environment and the current data trends that are clearly showing sector momentum.

Cyber-Ark Software

This company had a red-hot IPO last year and shares have had a breathtaking climb. Cyber-Ark Software Ltd. (NASDAQ: CYBR) claims it is the only security company focused on eliminating the most advanced cyberthreats, those that use insider privileges to attack the heart of the enterprise. The company proactively secures against cyberthreats before attacks can escalate and do irreparable damage. Some 35% of the Fortune 100 and 17 of the world’s top 20 banks use the software to protect high-value information assets, infrastructure and applications.

The Merrill Lynch team highlights the company’s unique and innovative technology that has a very large and rapidly growing market opportunity, which they estimate to be somewhere near $2.1 billion. They also see the company growing revenues at an astonishing 25% for the next several years, and the potential for 25% to 30% operating margins.

Merrill Lynch raised the price target on the stock from $70 to $80. The consensus price target at Thomson/First Call is $59.80. Cyber-Ark vaulted through that Wednesday, closing at $73.89.

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This stock has been on fire recently as huge cyberattacks like the recent hack on the government push the security concerns even higher. FireEye Inc. (NASDAQ: FEYE) has been mentioned recently as a takeover target, with a lot of the chatter centering on Cisco, which claims it is not interested. FireEye recently announced that it will be working with Visa to help the credit card giant develop products for merchants and credit card issuers to defend against large-scale attacks on payment data. FireEye is in an arena where it may drive the next big wave of cybersecurity technology.

The company is also torching the short sellers with a relentless move higher. As of May 29, 15.21 million shares of the stock, or 11% of the float, was sold short. One can be sure that number has come in recently as the short sellers frantically try to cover.

The Merrill Lynch team points out that while the company has a higher valuation than security peers, it is also growing faster and they see the company as the most innovative pure-play in the sector.

The Merrill Lynch price target goes from $55 to $60. The consensus target is $49.83. The stock blew through that Wednesday and closed at $54.08.

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Fortinet Inc. (NASDAQ: FTNT) is also well-liked on Wall Street, and analysts have pointed to specific reasons for the bullish posture:

  • The large push into enterprise and OMP.
  • The impact of the improved inventory management.
  • The new “Easy 4” pricing model released earlier this year, which involves a new bundled product sales strategy.

The company’s fast, secure and global cybersecurity solutions provide broad, high-performance protection against dynamic security threats while simplifying the IT infrastructure. They are strengthened by the industry’s highest level of threat research, intelligence and analytics. Unlike pure-play network security providers, Fortinet can solve organizations’ most important security challenges, whether in networked, application or mobile environments, be it virtualized/cloud or physical

Fortinet shareholders cheered in April as the company posted first-quarter earnings that beat expectations, while forecast revenue during the quarter was higher and management raised its year outlook above consensus. Wall Street also cheered as the company said the tone of business is very strong, and CEO Ken Xie believes demand for network security software solutions is the strongest “in 20 years.”

The Merrill Lynch team cites the discount to the peer group as deserved, given the lower growth profile and increased investment squeezing margins.

The Merrill Lynch price target is raised from $43 to $47, and the consensus target is at $42.12. Shares closed Wednesday at $42.89.

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While some would say these are only getting raised as the stocks blow past the old targets, and the sector is very frothy, they may be correct. But the fact remains that criminals, terrorists, foreign governments and maybe even pro baseball teams are hacking away. These companies and their products are the only way corporations and the government can keep predators away.

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