Can Palo Alto Networks Keep This Growth Up?

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Palo Alto Networks, Inc. (NYSE: PANW) reported fiscal fourth-quarter financial results after the markets closed on Tuesday. This has been a somewhat down year for this cybersecurity firm, but with this solid report and sizeable repurchase plan in place, Palo Alto Networks could stand to climb from here.

The company said that it had $0.50 in earnings per share (EPS) on $400.8 million in revenue, versus the consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters that called for $0.50 in EPS and $389.7 million in revenue.

Year over year EPS grew by 78% and revenues grew by 41%. Or in other words, the same period from last year had $0.28 in EPS on $283.88 million in revenue.

In terms of the outlook for the fiscal first-quarter, the company expects to have $0.51 to $0.53 in EPS on $396 million to $402 million in revenue. There are consensus estimates that are calling for $0.56 in EPS on $402.23 million in revenue.

For fiscal 2017, the company expects to have EPS in the range of $2.75 to $2.80, compared to the consensus estimate of $2.64 in EPS.

The board of directors authorized a $500 million share repurchase program. This repurchase authorization is expected to expire at the end of August, 2018. Keep in mind that Palo Alto Networks has a total market cap of nearly $13 billion.

Mark McLaughlin, CEO of Palo Alto Networks, commented:

Fourth quarter 2016 was a very strong finish to yet another record fiscal year. Revenue for the year was $1.4 billion, up 49 percent year over year, our customer base expanded to approximately 34,000 customers, we extended our platform capabilities both with new offerings and strategic partnerships, and we established new routes to market while driving significant growth across our partner ecosystem. The security industry is seeing a rapid transformation from legacy hardware and point products to integrated and automated capabilities that seamlessly work together as a platform. As the primary innovator driving this paradigm shift, customers are turning to our Next-Generation Security Platform in record numbers to more effectively prevent cyberattacks no matter where their data resides.

On the books, cash, cash equivalents, and short term investments totaled $1.29 billion at the end of this fiscal year, versus $789.0 million at the end of fiscal 2015.

Shares of Palo Alto Networks closed Tuesday up 1.4% at $143.45, with a consensus analyst price target of $183.58 and a 52-week trading range of $111.09 to $194.73. Following the release of the earnings report, the stock was initially up 2.4% at $146.92 in the after-hours trading session.