William Blair Positive on Palo Alto Networks Inc (PANW) and General Electric Company (GE); Here’s Why

William Blair provides positive insights on Palo Alto Networks Inc (NYSE:PANW) despite a first fiscal quarter miss that has sent shares tumbling, and on General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) after the company’s Minds + Machines (M+M) conference. Let’s explore why:

Palo Alto Networks: Buy on the Current Weakness

Yesterday, Palo Alto Networks posted an underwhelming first fiscal quarter print that has led shares to trade down 11% today. William Blair analyst Jonathan Ho found the cyber security firm’s results “disappointing,” attributing the poor quarter to lengthening large deal cycles that stalled closure rates while allowing various key deals to “slip out of the quarter.”

Nonetheless, the analyst maintains his long-term bullish perspective and in light of the pullback advises, “We would be buyers on the weakness in the stock.” Therefore, the analyst reiterates an Outperform rating on shares of PANW without listing a price target.

For the quarter, PANW saw a 34.0% year-over-year rise in revenue, which was “in line” with the analyst’s expectations for 34.3%, while bringing in a free cash flow margin of 45.8%. The disappointment lies with the company’s quarterly product revenue, a mere 10.9% compared to PANW’s full-year target range of 12% to 13%. The company’s management team maintains its expectation for product revenue to grow within this target range for the current year. Another weak point was PANW’s growth in billings of 33.2% year-over-year, underperforming Ho’s forecast of 36.5%.

The company guides revenue for its second fiscal quarter in the range of $426 million to $432 million, indicative of a 28.2% growth at the midpoint, significantly under Ho’s past projection as well as the Street’s. Meanwhile, forma earnings per share of $0.61 to $0.63 fall short of both the analyst’s estimate of $0.64 as well as consensus of $0.63.

Ho believes, “While Palo Alto has subsequently booked some of these deals, the company maintained a more cautious view reflecting continuation of the uncertainty. In our view, had these deals closed, the company likely would have had a decent, though not stellar, quarter. We believe the issues can be corrected with a renewed focus on channel execution, new tools, more familiarity with new customer procurement processes, and increased conservatism in evaluating the pipeline. While the company was not satisfied with its performance, it did not see any evidence of structural issues related to competition, pricing, or shift to the public cloud affect results.”

Ultimately, “Our belief is that growth can still reaccelerate into 2017 as the company faces easier comparisons, a larger refresh base, and benefits from new partnerships,” Ho concludes.

As usual, we like to include the analyst’s track record when reporting on new analyst notes to give a perspective on the effect it has on stock performance. According to TipRanks, four-star analyst Jonathan Ho is ranked #636 out of 4,235 analysts. Ho has a 52% success rate and gains 10.9% in his annual returns. When recommending PANW, Ho garners 39.2% in average profits on the stock.

TipRanks analytics exhibit PANW as a Strong Buy. Out of 22 analysts polled by TipRanks in the last 3 months, 20 are bullish on Palo Alto Networks stock and 2 remain sidelined. With a return potential of nearly 15%, the stock’s consensus target price stands at $184.56.

M+M Conference Takeaway: General Electric’s Digital Segment Shines

Following General Electric’s Minds + Machines (M+M) conference, William Blair analyst Nicholas Heymann remains confident as GE Digital is “poised to ‘Gigaccelerate'” and reiterates an Outperform rating on GE with a price target of $35, which represents a 13% increase from where the shares last closed.

A crucial takeaway from the conference for the analyst is the industrial giant’s GE Digital segment that not only is on track, but even in some cases “ahead of its targets to commercialize the industrial internet while GE Oil & Gas’s investor presentation underscored the business’s shift from reliance on capital spending to recurring operating expenditure revenues.”

Meanwhile, Heymann argues, “If data is the new oil, GE Digital looks set to become one of GE’s most valuable businesses very soon while it helps to transform the “new” GE Oil & Gas with Baker Hughes into a digital productivity powerhouse while GE’s oil and gas business awaits stronger energy capital spending late this decade.”

Furthermore, “GE Digital is galvanizing the transformation of GE into a digital industrial company. GE Digital’s development of its Predix platform is progressing well, with over 270 GE Predix Alliance Partners now signed, more than GE Digital’s 2018 goal of 250 Alliance Partners, up from 217 a month ago,” Heymann contends.

With the company’s Oil & Gas’s merger with Baker Hughes allowing the giant to revolutionize its reliance on energy capital costs bolstering three substantially developed “avenues to create value until energy capital spending recovers,” the analyst praises GE’s stellar position, anticipating recovery will start circling around 2019 and 2020.

According to TipRanks, which measures analysts’ and bloggers’ success rate based on how their calls perform, three-star analyst Nicholas Heymann is ranked #1,789 out of 4,235 analysts. Heymann has a 62% success rate and realizes 2.9% in his yearly returns. When suggesting GE, Heymann yields 5.2% in average profits on the stock.

TipRanks analytics demonstrate GE as a Buy. Based on 9 analysts polled in the last 3 months, 5 rate a Buy on GE, 3 maintain a Hold, while 1 issues a Sell. The 12-month average price target stands at $35.00, marking a 13% upside from where the stock is currently trading.

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