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Palo Alto Networks stock downgraded amid new sales strategy concerns

EditorAhmed Abdulazez Abdulkadir
Published 21/02/2024, 12:46
Updated 21/02/2024, 12:46
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On Wednesday, Loop Capital adjusted its stance on Palo Alto Networks (NASDAQ:PANW), downgrading the stock from Buy to Hold, despite increasing the price target to $300 from $280. The company, known for its cybersecurity solutions, has recently introduced a significant shift in its sales approach, which involves a robust up-front discount program. This program offers credits to customers who replace a competitor's product with a PANW one, essentially allowing for a period of free usage.

The analyst from Loop Capital expressed concerns that this aggressive sales tactic, while not unprecedented in the industry, is expected to be implemented on a large scale. This could lead to a negative impact on Palo Alto Networks' billings and revenue growth over the next 12 to 18 months. The move is anticipated to prompt competitors to adopt similar strategies, potentially diminishing the intended benefits for PANW.

The company's transition to this new go-to-market program is likely to introduce a high degree of variability and uncertainty. Investors may find it challenging to discern whether the slowdown in revenue and billings growth is attributable to the new strategy or a general decrease in demand. Management has suggested Remaining Performance Obligations (RPO) as a metric to monitor progress during this transitional period. However, factors such as the timing of the renewal cycle and changes in contract duration could significantly influence RPO.

Loop Capital also noted that Palo Alto Networks' three-year growth targets, established six months prior, are now considered largely irrelevant. This shift has affected investor sentiment, which had previously been positive. In light of these developments, Loop Capital recommends a cautious approach, advising investors to remain on the sidelines during the initial stages of the new sales program's implementation. After the market closed, shares of Palo Alto Networks traded below the $300 price target, a figure that Loop Capital believes reflects both the long-term prospects and the immediate risks associated with the company's strategy shift.

This article was generated with the support of AI and reviewed by an editor. For more information see our T&C.

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