Palo Alto slides as billings forecast points to clients deferring payments

By Thomson Reuters May 21, 2024 | 10:45 AM

(Reuters) – Palo Alto Networks shares fell 3.5% on Tuesday after a largely in-line fourth-quarter billings forecast indicated the near-term impact of the cybersecurity firm’s attempts to consolidate its services under a single platform.

The company is betting on its “platformization” strategy to drive growth. However, that drove an increase in bookings with payments deferred over the term of the purchase instead of upfront, as clients grappled with higher borrowing costs, a trend Palo Alto expects will continue.

The company projected fourth-quarter billings to be between $3.43 billion and $3.48 billion, the mid-point of which was largely in line with LSEG estimate of $3.45 billion.

“Clearly investors had been hopeful for more, as the stock price crept up since early April in anticipation of earnings,” analysts at Bernstein said in a client note.

Palo Alto’s shares had gained about 11% this month through Monday’s close.

Still, analysts remained optimistic as new AI products and a deal with IBM to deliver AI-powered security are expected to accelerate performance at the company.

“We continue to believe the company remains well-positioned to consolidate security spend and to maintain above-peer growth,” analysts at RBC Capital Markets said.

(Reporting by Harshita Mary Varghese in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Zaheer Kachwala; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)