FireEye’s Future Prospects Bright, But Investors Should Avoid The Stock (Second Seeking Alpha Article)

About two weeks ago, my second article was approved on Seeking Alpha. The article is about FireEye (NASDAQ: FEYE). The first article was about Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY)

The article can also be found at http://seekingalpha.com/article/3966410-fireeyes-future-prospects-bright-investors-avoid-stock.

If you have any questions/suggestions, feel free to contact me anytime. Thank you.


Summary

  • FireEye acquired four companies in the last three years.
  • Issued nearly $900 million in debt and continues to lose money.
  • Possible secondary offering, diluting shareholders’ equity further.

Founded in 2004, FireEye (NASDAQ:FEYE) has grown exponentially. The importance of security is extremely vital, and the demand for security continues to increase as cyber attacks increase and the world becomes more connected.

In 1988, after four years from the Macintosh introduction, the Internet’s first ever worm virus hit the computers. The Morris worm – one of the finest recognized worms to affect the world’s nascent cyber infrastructure – changed everything. Bugs in the code caused hundreds of systems to slow down and crash. Computer security was then no longer a science fiction.

Today, it is not just a computer security, but also smartphone security, cloud security, and so on. In short, the Internet is everywhere. As FireEye says:

“Attackers are clever, technology is complex, and experts are in short supply.”

FireEye stands out in the global Specialized Threat Analysis and Protection (STAP) market. According to research firm IDC, FireEye had 37.9% of the nearly $1 billion STAP market in 2014, seven times greater than its closest competitor. The $930 million STAP market grew 126.3% from 2013. By the end of 2019, it’s expected to reach $3.14 billion, compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.6% from 2014 to 2019.

From the STAP market alone, FireEye generated $353 million in revenue, a 119.2% growth year over year (Y/Y). The STAP market revenue accounted for a whopping 82.86% of FireEye’s total $426 million revenue in 2014. If the company can maintain its 38% of share by 2019, it could be generating about $1.2 billion in revenue from that market alone.

STAP Market Revenue and FireEye's Revenue at 37.9% share
STAP Revenue – 2011-2019 ($M)

While these are great news, there’s a disappointment. FireEye’s 37.9% share of the market in 2014 declined from 43.1% in 2013 due to a growing competition, notably from Palo Alto Networks (NYSE:PANW).

In April 2014, Palo Alto Networks acquired Israeli cyber security start-up Cyvera for nearly $180 million. In September 2014, it introduced Traps, an endpoint STAP product that was built on the technology from Cyvera.

FireEye itself admits the intense competition it operates in. In its 2015 annual filing, it recognized that “several vendors have either introduced new products or incorporated new features into existing products that compete with our solutions…independent security vendors such as Palo Alto Networks…offer products that claim to perform similar functions to our platform.”

In December 2013, FireEye acquired Mandiant, a leading provider of advanced endpoint security products and security incident response management solutions, for approximately $1.02 billion in cash and stock. Mandiant is well known for a report it published in February 2013, detailing a secretive Chinese military unit believed to be behind a long list of cyber attacks on U.S. companies.

The combination of former FireEye, attack detector, and Mandiant, attack responder, came after the Snowden leaks in June 2013. The marriage between them created a major force in the cyber security industry.

During the fourth-quarter conference call, chairman and chief executive officer of FireEye, David DeWalt, stated:

“We’ve gone from selling discrete web and email security appliances to enterprise customers to delivering a global threat management platform integrated across the network, endpoint and cloud to customers large and small.”

According to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures, the global cyber security market is expected to grow from $106.32 billion in 2015 to $170.21 billion by 2020 at a compound annual growth rate of 9.8%. In its cyber security 500 list of the world’s hottest and most innovative cyber security companies, FireEye came in first.

While FireEye may be the hottest, its stock is the ugliest. The share price of FireEye was down 35% last year while the NASDAQ 100 Technology sector has declined 2.8%. Since hitting an all-time high at $97.35 on March 2014, the stock is down 82%. The stock hit all-time lows on February 12th – the day after the fourth-quarter earnings report – at $11.35. Since then, the share price is up 55% at a current price of $17.60.

FEYE Chart
FEYE data by YCharts

In May 2014, FireEye acquired nPulse Technologies, a privately-held network forensics firm, for $56.6 million. nPulse specialized in the analytics of a cyber attack and how the attacks may have affected the networks. nPulse was a partner of FireEye prior to the acquisition. It seems FireEye benefited from the partnership with nPulse. The combination of Mandiant and nPulse gives FireEye an all-encompassing security framework.

In January 2016, FireEye acquired iSIGHT Security, a cyber threat intelligence solutions provider, for $200 million. iSIGHT is memorable for its discovery of a zero-day vulnerability – a hole in a software that is unknown to the vendor – affecting Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) devices. It was used by Russian hackers to hijack and snoop on computers and servers used by NATO, the European Union, telecommunications and energy sectors.

In February 2016, FireEye acquired Invotas, a small company based in Virginia focusing on security automation and orchestration. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. FEYE said it plans to integrate the security orchestration capabilities from Invotas into the FireEye global threat management platform, “giving enterprises the ability to respond more quickly to attacks through automation,” and help customers deal with the “severe shortage of resources by automating the security process and building intelligence into their operations.”

FireEye expects iSIGHT and Invotas to add approximately $60 million to $65 million to 2016 billings and approximately $55 million to $60 million to 2016 revenue. That alone would bring 7.52% to 8.15% growth to the billings Y/Y. Revenue would grow 8.83% to 8.63% Y/Y.

For the year ending December 31, FireEye expects revenue from $815 million to $845 million and billings from $975 million to $1.1 billion. If the revenue grows as expected, it represents a growth of 31% to 36% Y/Y, and the billings would grow 22% to 32% Y/Y. After subtracting the revenue growth from iSIGHT and Invotas, organic growth would range from 22.85% to 28.48%. Of course, that does not include other acquisitions. The question is what is FireEye’s real organic growth?

FireEye's Key Financials and Growth Rate
FireEye’s Key Financials and Growth Rate

DeWalt believes bringing FireEye, “Mandiant, iSIGHT and Invotas together, we’ve created a cyber security like no other, one with a suite of leading technologies, world-class cyber security expertise, and nation-grade threat intelligence, all brought together to form a comprehensive threat management platform.”

At the end of 2015, the company had $402.1 million in cash and cash equivalents, up from $146.4 million in the end of 2014. With short-term investment – which can be liquidated in less than a year – of $767.8 million, total cash and ST investment adds up to $1.17 billion, an increase of 190.86% from $402.2 million in 2014. Most of the increase in total cash can be attributed to the issuance of debt last year. In 2015, FireEye issued a total debt of $896.5 million. It currently has $706.2 million in debt, which I expect to increase as the company continues to lose money.

FireEye believes the existing “cash and cash equivalents and short-term investments and any cash inflow from operations will be sufficient to meet our anticipated cash needs, including cash we will consume for operations, for at least the next 12 months.” But, I do not take its word for it, considering the company loses about $135 million every quarter, or $500 million in a year. In addition to the issuance of debt, total stockholders’ equity decreased to $1.04 billion in 2015 from $1.25 billion in 2014, as the amount of common shares increased 8.8 million to 162 million. As FireEye continues to lose money, it is possible it might do a secondary offering, which will dilute shareholders’ equity further.

One sign that FireEye is investing into the future is its workforce. At the end of 2015, FireEye had approximately 3,100 employees, up from 2,500 in 2014 and 1,678 in 2013. Growing workforce shows the company is optimistic in the future. Make no mistake, FEYE is clearly positioning itself to take a bigger share of a growing industry.

I believe FireEye is a great company that has the potential to succeed in the growing security market. But, it is too early for me to be optimistic in its future stock performance, as it continues to lose money and possible secondary offering this year.

FireEye is due to report its first-quarter earnings on Thursday, May 5th.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: All information I used here such as revenue, etc are found from FireEye’s official investor relations site, SEC filings, and Bloomberg terminal. The pictures you see here including “FireEye’s Key Financials and Growth Rate” and “STAP Revenue – 2011-2019 ($M)” are my own.


Houston (Fed), We Have A Problem (Problems) – Part 2/2

In the previous article, Houston (Fed), We Have A Problem (Problems) – Part 1/2, I addressed two risks (growing monetary policy divergence and emerging markets)  that will force the Fed to “land” (lower back) rates this year. I will address more risks here.

One huge risk that I will not address here, but will address in a future article is “lack of liquidity”. While I was doing research, I came across more information that I expected. I’m still getting more information and I believe it will be a great article. I will give a sneak peek of the article in the bottom of this article.

Junk Bonds, Credit Spreads, Energy, Manufacturing, Earnings Decline:

Earlier last month (December 10, 2015), Third Avenue’s Focused Credit Fund (FCF), a large mutual fund specializing in risky, high-yielding bonds, announced it would block investor redemptions, “no further subscriptions or redemptions will be accepted.” In mid-2014, they had $3.5 billion assets under management (AUM). As of December 31, 2015, they only had AUM of $660.67 million, as investors rushed to get their money back because of weakness in the junk bond market.

Now, investors’ money are being held hostage. “The remaining assets have been placed in a liquidating trust”, said David Barse, CEO of the firm, as the investor requests for redemptions and the “general reduction of liquidity in the fixed income markets” made it impossible for the fund to “create sufficient cash to pay anticipated redemptions without resorting to sales at prices that would unfairly disadvantage the remaining shareholders.”

The process is a pain in the ass, “Third Avenue anticipates that the full liquidation process may take up to a year or more.” Again, investors’ money are being held hostage.

This events highlights the danger of “over-investments” into risky areas, high levels of corporate debt, AND the lack of liquidity (will be addressed in a future article). With interest rates hovering around 0 (well, before the rate-hike in December), U.S. companies have rushed to issue debt.

Investors who poses a higher risk appétit can find junk bonds, yielding higher interest rates, to be “useful” for their style and capacity of investment. More rewards for more risks, right?

As the global economy continues to struggle, namely China and emerging markets, yield on junk bonds have been increasing since they are a higher chance of defaulting.

Rising interest rates adversely impact bond prices, pushing their yield of the bond higher (inverse relationship). While increase in rates does not largely affect junk bonds since they have a higher coupon (yield) and shorter maturities (shorter maturity means less price sensitivity to rates), current junk bond market combined the impacts of a stronger dollar and low commodity prices can be extremely adverse and dangerous.

High-yield debt yields, as represented by Bank of America Merrill Lynch U.S. High Yield Master II Effective Yield, have been increasing since mid of last year. It rose from 5.16% (June 23, 2014) to current 9.23%. That’s whopping 78.88% increase, representing the growing risks of junk bond market.

BofA Merrill Lynch U.S. High Yield Master II Effective Yield Source: retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
BofA Merrill Lynch U.S. High Yield Master II Effective Yield
Source: retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

 

According to Lipper, investors pulled out a total $13.88 billion from high-yield funds in 2015, with $6.29 billion in December alone. As redemptions increase, funds may suffer as high-yields are harder to trade due to its lack of liquidity (will talk more about the major risk of illiquidity in a future article) and funds may have to take an action like the Third Avenue did.

Credit spreads (difference in yield between two bonds of similar maturity but different credit quality) are widening, which possibly signals a wider economic trouble ahead. Widening credit spreads mark growing concerns about the ability of borrowers to service their debt. Not only borrowers will suffer, but also lenders since they lost money.

BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield Master II Option-Adjusted Spread, representing the credit spread of the high yield bond market as a whole, have been increasing the middle of 2014. It’s currently at 775 (7.75%) basis points (bps).

BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield CCC or Below Option-Adjusted Spread is currently 1,804bps wide (18.04), a level of highly distressed territory. Credits are defined as distressed when they are trading more than 1,000bps (10%) wide.

BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield Master II Option-Adjusted Spread AND BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield CCC or Below Option-Adjusted Spread Source: FRED Economic Data
BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield Master II Option-Adjusted Spread AND BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield CCC or Below Option-Adjusted Spread
Source: FRED Economic Data

I believe it will continue to increase this year, reflecting the worsening of the credit conditions that would cause greater concern among investors and policymakers (Hi, Ms. Yellen. Time to reverse the policy?)

iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (NYSE: HYG), an index composed of U.S. dollar-denominated, high yield corporate bonds, is already down 1.39% year-to-date (YTD) and was down 10.58% in 2015, expressing the increasing uncertainty by the investors, as they pull back their money from high-yielding bonds/ETFs. The exposure of the index to CCC rated bonds, B rated bonds, and BB rated bonds, are 8.88%, 38.73%, and 50.25%, respectively. Stronger U.S. dollar and lower commodity prices are expected (and it will) to hurt the earnings of U.S. companies, increasing the chances of defaults, especially in energy.

iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (NYSE: HYG)
iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (NYSE: HYG)

The index’s energy exposure is 9.38%. Recently oil prices plunged to levels under $30. Energy companies borrowed a lot of debt during oil price boom, to increase production (so that they can gain more market share), are now being haunted by their own actions. A lot of energy companies are currently under an extreme pressure to make a dime, as oil prices plunge. According to law firm Haynes and Boone, 42 North American oil and gas producers filed for bankruptcy last year. Those 42 defaults account for approximately $17 billion in cumulative secured (over $9 billion) and unsecured debt (almost $8 billion).

2015 E&P Bankruptcy Filings Source: Law firm Haynes and Boone - Slide 5
2015 E&P Bankruptcy Filings
Source: Law firm Haynes and Boone – Slide 5

Out of those 42 bankruptcy filings, 18 of them come from Texas, a leading state in energy production. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Texas had a capacity of over 5.1 million barrels of crude oil per day and accounted for 29% of total U.S. refining capacity, as of January 2015, and accounted for about 29% of U.S. gas production in 2014.

In 2014, Texas gross domestic product (GDP) increased 5.2% year-over-year (Y/Y), the second greatest change in state GDP after North Dakota. Mining industry accounted for 1.25% increase to GDP, its largest contributor. Texas’s GDP accounted for 9.5% of U.S. total GDP in 2014.

The collapse of energy prices over the past several years are “fracking” down the Texas economy. The Dallas Federal Reserve’s general business activity index “collapsed” to -34.6 in January, the lowest reading since April 2009, when Texas was in recession. Same with company outlook index, it fell to -19.5 in January from -10.5 in December.

Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey – General Business Conditions Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey – General Business Conditions
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

The production index – a key measure of state manufacturing conditions – fell all the way from 12.7 in December to -10.2 in January. New orders index fell -9.2 in January from -7 in December.

Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey – Business Indicators Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey – Business Indicators
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Employment Index, on the other hand, sharply dropped to -4.2 in January from 10.9 in December. Texas is a home to many energy giants, such as Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB), Halliburton (NYSE: HAL), Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI), Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP). The companies slashed off tens of thousands of jobs over the past year and cut capex significantly, as the current stressed energy market heavily weighted on them.

In January 21, Schlumberger reported 38.7% decrease in fourth quarter revenue Y/Y, and net income declined substantially to a loss of $989 million, compared with profit of $317 million in the same period of 2014. Texas-based energy giant’s North American region 4th quarter revenue fell 54.79% to $1.9 billion from $4.3 billion in the same quarter of 2014. The company’s earnings announcement warned of a “deepening financial crisis in the E&P industry, and prompted customers to make further cuts to already significantly lower E&P investment levels. Customer budgets were also exhausted early in the quarter, leading to unscheduled and abrupt activity cancellations.” As a result of a weaker quarter and worsening conditions, they plan to lay off 10,000 workers, adding to already laid-off 34,000 workers, or 26% of its original workforce, since November 2014.

On Monday (January 25, 2016), Halliburton reported its fourth quarter earnings. Halliburton’s 4th quarter revenue fell 42% in Y/Y to $5.08 billion, including a 54.4% plunge to $2.1 billion in its North American region, which accounted for 42.4% of total revenue in 4Q.  On a GAAP basis, the Texas-based energy giant (and another one) reported a quarterly net loss of $28 million ($0.03 per share) compared with net income of $9.01 million ($1.06 per share) in the fourth quarter of 2014.

On Thursday (January 28, 2016), Baker Hughes reported a 48.85% decrease in fourth quarter revenue to $3.4 billion from $6.6 billion in the same period of 2014. On GAAP basis, the Texas-based energy giant (and another one) reported a quarterly net loss of $1 billion ($2.35 per share) compared with net income of $663 million ($1.52 per share) in the fourth quarter of 2014. Its North American region revenue fell 65.59% to $1.14 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with $3.30 billion in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Chevron Corp., (NYSE: CVX), California-based energy giant, posted its first loss since the third quarter of 2002 on Friday (January 29, 2016). It reported a fourth quarter loss of $588 million ($0.31 per share), compared with $3.5 billion ($1.85 per share) in the same period of 2014. During the same period, its revenue fell 36.5% to $29.25 billion from $46.09 billion.

Below is a graph by EIA, showing how the cost of debt service for U.S. oil producers has grown since 2012. In the second quarter of 2015, more than 80% of these producers’ cash flow went to service their outstanding debt, leaving very little cash to fund operations, to pay dividends, and to invest for the future. To adjust to those pains, the producers have significantly reduced capital expenditures.

Debt service uses a rising share of U.S. onshore oil producers’ operating cash flow Source: EIA
Debt service uses a rising share of U.S. onshore oil producers’ operating cash flow
Source: EIA

During the end of Q2 2015, oil prices were around $58. It’s currently at $38. Clearly, the situation has only gotten worse.

Both Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips will report its fourth quarter earnings next week.


I believe oil prices have hit bottom and it won’t break $27 this year.

Why do I say that?

I believe the market already priced in Iran’s entry into oil war. Recently, hedge fund bearish bets on oil were at all-time high (crowded trade). Crowed trade includes: a large numbers of participants who share similar beliefs and heavy short-term bag holders (speculators). I tend to take advantage of this types of situations.

Not only bearish bets on oil are at all-time high and not only I believe Iran is already priced in, but some OPEC countries, including Nigeria and Venezuela, already started calling for emergency meetings to try to cut production. I’m starting to believe that they can no longer handle the pain. While this is a political game – to gain and preserve more market share – it won’t last long enough to get oil breaking below $27. They can no longer bluff.

For many OPEC members, operating costs are around $30. With slowing global growth, they can’t afford to have even lower oil prices.

Conclusion: Oil has hit bottom and it won’t break below $27 this year. If you disagree with me, feel free to comment below.


Speaking of junk bonds, the energy sector makes up about a fifth of the high-yield bond index. Fitch Ratings forecast the US high yield energy sector default rate to hit 11% this year, “eclipsing the 9.7% rate seen in 1999.”

According to Fitch Ratings, at the beginning of December of last year, “$98 billion of the high yield universe was bid below 50 cents, while $257 billion was bid below 80 cents. The battered energy and metals/mining sectors comprise 78% of the total bid below 50 cents. In addition, 53% percent of energy, metals/mining companies rated ‘B-‘ or lower were bid below 50 at the start of December, compared to 16% at the end of 2014, reflecting the decline in crude oil prices.”

Not only energy companies will suffer, but also banks. The biggest U.S. banks – Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase – have exposure to energy as part of their overall portfolios.

  • Morgan Stanley: Energy exposure assumed at 5% of total loans.
  • Citigroup: Energy exposure assumed at 3.3% of total loans.
  • Bank of America: Energy exposure assumed at 2.4% of total loans.
  • Goldman Sachs: Energy exposure assumed at 2.1% of total loans.
  • Wells Fargo: Energy exposure assumed at 1.9% of total loans.
  • JPMorgan Chase: Energy exposure assumed at 1.6% of total loans.

According to Fitch Ratings, exposure to energy sector were “cited as higher risk segments for the banks.”

The collapse in oil prices, strong U.S. dollar, and weakening global economy “crippled” manufacturers across the country. The Empire State manufacturing index fell to -19.4 in January from -6.2 in December, the lowest level since March 2009. The reading suggests manufacturing sector is slowing down and it raises questions about the outlook for the economy.

Manufacturing is very important to the U.S. economy. According to National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), there are 12.33 million manufacturing workers in the U.S., accounting for 9% of the nation’s workforce. Manufacturers recently contributed $2.18 trillion to the U.S. economy. “Taken alone, manufacturing in the United States would be the ninth-largest economy in the world.” according to NAM. For more facts and details, click here.

The manufacturing index have been below zero since July. Not only did the headline fell, but so did new orders index and shipments index. New orders fell 23.5 in January from -6.2 in December. Shipments fell -14.4 in January from 4.6 in December.

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York
The Empire State Manufacturing Survey
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Slump in new orders can shift the production into lower gear and possibly jeopardize jobs. The employment (number of employees) index continued to deteriorate for a fifth consecutive month. The weaknesses in the Empire State indexes suggests that the earnings of manufacturers are under pressure.

According to FactSet, the S&P 500 is expected to report a Y/Y decline in earnings of 5.7% for the fourth quarter. For Q4 2015, the blended earnings decline is -5.8%. A Y/Y decline in earnings for the fourth quarter will mark the first time S&P 500 has reported three consecutive quarters of Y/Y declines in earnings since Q1 2009 through Q3 2009.

For Q1 2016, 33 companies out of S&P 500, so far, have issued negative EPS guidance and 6 companies have issued positive EPS guidance.

Another drag on earnings can be the current inventories to sales ratio. Since early 2012, the ratio has been increasing.

Total Business: Inventories to Sales Ratio Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Total Business: Inventories to Sales Ratio
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

An increasing ratio is a negative sign because it shows companies may be having trouble keeping inventories down and/or sales have slowed. If they have too much of inventories, they may have to discount the products to clear their shelves, dragging on the earnings.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and/or leave comments below. Thank you.

Sneak peek of a future article that addresses one huge risk (lack of liquidity):

“With low liquidity in the bond market and increasing HFT transactions in it, the threat is real. Automated trades can trigger extreme price swings and the communication in these automated trades can quickly erode liquidity before you even know it, even though there is a very high volume. While liquidity in the U.S. bond market is high, it’s not high enough to battle the power of the technological progress.”