Cybersecurity stocks are down hard compared to last year, but not because the industry isn't hot.
The problem was valuation, fears of slowing growth and threats of a looming recession. According to the Q2 reporting season, growth is slowing but still robust and above consensus. In addition, margins are widening and expected to remain strong or improve over the next year.
The analysts lifted their targets for cybersecurity stocks, putting a floor in the market. Based on the outlooks and the technical setups, these stocks are ready to rip higher, but which is the best one to buy?
CrowdStrike: Endpoint Security
The Falcon platform CrowdStrike Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: CRWD) emerged as the leading source for endpoint security. Endpoint security focuses on securing the devices of endpoint users, including workstations, PCs, laptops and mobile. Services include malware, antivirus, detection and response.
It is the cheapest high-growth cybersecurity stock, with a P/E of 61x this year's earnings, which falls to a more reasonable 47x next year.
The Q2 report highlighted slowing growth but to a high-double-digit level, and growth should continue at a double-digit pace through next year. The analysts see the stock moving up at least 20%, which is a cautious estimate given the revision trend.
Zscaler: Zero-Trust Private Network
Zscaler Inc. (NASDAQ: ZS) has a cloud-based zero-trust private-network security system launched from over 150 data centers worldwide. Services are located geographically close to the end users, which helps to speed up detection and response. Among the system's features are decoys that lure and prevent unwanted access. Again, growth is slowing but at a high-double-digit pace expected to continue.
Next year’s consensus implies 285 top-line growth, likely a cautious estimate. Analysts rate Zscaler a "moderate buy" with about 12% upside potential; the consensus target flattened over the past month but is up compared to last quarter due to revisions following the Q2 results.
Datadog: Infrastructure Security
Datadog Inc. (NASDAQ: DDOG) operates a data tracking and analytics platform that includes security, prevention, detection and responses. The platform operates like a virtual private cloud that limits network access.
Growth slowed to 20% in the past quarter but came above the MarketBeat.com consensus, leading analysts to raise targets despite weak guidance. The company cut its revenue target for the year but maintained the guidance for earnings above consensus. The analysts rate the stock a "moderate buy" with a higher price target about 12% above the current action.
Check Point Software: AI-Based (Before AI was Cool)
Check Point Software Technologies (NASDAQ: CHKP) is an interesting choice because it has used AI for years. It is also a consolidated cybersecurity firm offering solutions for the cloud, networks, endpoints, mobile and the Internet of Things (IoT).
It is the cheapest stock in the group at 16x earnings, which is attractive but has the slowest growth. Growth should continue, and the stock is the least volatile of the group. Investors looking for exposure with less risk may choose this stock. However, the analysts rate it at "hold" with a price target that assumes fair value at current levels.
Okta: Security as a Business Service
Okta Inc. (NASDAQ: OKTA) operates an ID management and security platform. The platform secures networks by validating IDs to manage access via the cloud. The company’s growth slowed to 20% this year and 17% next year, with expected widening margins and outperformance.
Outperformance is expected because the company tends to beat consensus 100% of the time, and the Q2 results were robust, pointing to additional momentum. Guidance was also favorable and led the analysts to raise their targets. The sentiment and price target are moving higher than earlier in the year, with the sentiment up to "moderate buy" from "hold" and the price target leading the market.
Palo Alto Networks: Industry Leader
Palo Alto Networks Inc. (NASDAQ: PANW) is the most significant player in cybersecurity, with business spanning hardware, software, networks, the cloud and AI.
It trades at the most reasonable valuation of the group aside from Check Point, with a P/E of 43x. That’s high for a blue-chip tech stock but comes with 25% year-over-year (YOY) growth this year and 20% next. Analysts rate it a firm "buy" with a price target about 8% above the current action. The 8% isn’t much, but this is the only price target trending higher compared to last month, last quarter and last year, as seen in the price action.