‘Better than the rest:’ Wall Street cheers Palo Alto Networks earnings beat, forward guidance

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Palo Alto Networks’ earnings report on Monday garnered it a slew of analyst upgrades and positive notes. The company reported quarterly results that beat Wall Street’s expectations on the top and bottom lines, provided strong quarterly and full-year guidance and announced that its board approved a 3-for-1 stock split to take place in September. In addition, the company expanded its stock repurchase program by $915 million to a total of $1 billion. Shares surged more than 8% in premarket trading on the news. “While most of our coverage universe is guiding estimates lower on a CC basis, PANW is raising estimates,” wrote Keith Bachman of BMO Capital Markets in a Monday note. The firm raised its price target to $675 from $650 and maintained Palo Alto Networks as its top pick. Palo Alto Networks has shed 9.5% year to date through Monday’s close. Billings strength Strong billings driven by large deals were a major highlight of the company’s earnings release. Billings were up 44% in the fiscal fourth quarter, driving revenue of $1.6 billion — ahead of the company’s guidance of revenue between $1.53 billion to $1.56 billion. “Billings growth of 43.7% YoY was almost double that of expectations for 25.4%, and the company continues to show good traction with its next-generation security ARR up 60.4% YoY, similar to the 65-70%+ growth seen in the last three quarters and attesting to the success of its strategy execution,” Bank of America analyst Tal Liani wrote in a Tuesday note. The firm reiterated its buy rating and $650 price target for the company. In addition, Liani noted that the company’s guidance for full-year 2023 and that management expects to achieve positive GAAP net income, another positive and formerly a weak spot. Liani has a price target of $650 per share on the stock, which represents upside of 28% from Monday’s close, and a buy rating. Positive EPS The company said it expects total revenue between $1.535 billion and $1.555 billion with diluted non-GAAP net income per share between $2.03 to $2.06 in its fiscal first quarter of 2023. For the full year, the company said it expects total revenue to be between $6.85 billion and $6.90 billion with diluted non-GAAP net income per share of $9.40 to $9.50. Reporting positive GAAP net income in the fiscal first quarter and full-year 2023 should be received well by investors, Jefferies analyst Brent Thill wrote in a Tuesday note. He also said that he overall sees no macroeconomic worries going forward for the company and moved his price target to $650 from $600 while reiterating his buy rating. Reaching positive GAAP EPS will also put the company on track to be included in the S & P 500 by April of 2023, Morgan Stanley’s Hamza Fodderwala wrote in a Tuesday note. S & P 500 inclusion, $100 billion valuation Morgan Stanley sees Palo Alto Networks as becoming the first cybersecurity company to reach a $100 billion valuation and expects it will reach the milestone in the next two years. “Against an increasingly uncertain macro backdrop in which several security companies delivered underwhelming results, PANW continues to set itself apart,” Fodderwala wrote. Palo Alto Networks is also one of Morgan Stanley’s top picks. The firm has an overweight rating and $823 price target on shares, implying a 62% upside from where shares closed Monday. –CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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