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Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (CHKP)

February 13, 2013 5:40 pm ET

Executives

Kip Meintzer

Analysts

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Well, good afternoon. Thanks so much for joining us. And thank you, Kip Meintzer, the Head of IR at Check Point Software. I think you had a statement that you wanted to say before we got into it? So I'll let you kick it off.

Kip Meintzer

Not a problem. Just wanted to give you guys a quick summary of the Safe Harbor. Obviously, during the course of conversation of the presentation, there may be some forward-looking statements that are covered under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934. Obviously, and there's risks and uncertainties associated with any of those forward-looking statements. If you'd like a long list of them, you can take a look in our 20-F filed for the end of 2011. It's with the SEC or on our website. We also take no duty to update any statements we make during the course of the conversation.

With that, I'll throw it back to Greg. And we can go from there.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Okay, I'll start big picture. I think most people know who Check Point Software is. You've been around for a while but maybe, maybe...

Kip Meintzer

I've had a bunch of phone calls in the last few quarters from people that didn't but...

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Well, let's start there. I guess, if you can give us a brief overview of where you came from. Kind of that transition from software to appliance. Where are you today and then we'll go a layer or two deeper after that.

Kip Meintzer

Okay. So, in and around 2007 -- well, let's the start off prior to that, back in early 90s. Check Point effectively created this industry, what have you, the firewall, package firewall. And from there it grew substantially through the years. If you look at how this market's progressed, effectively what happened is the Internet was introduced into enterprises in the early 1990s. Prior to a packaged firewall product, they were using consultants to build customized one-off products. What happened from there is we delivered a packaged product. And as that grew, what happened is every time a new technology or new problem was introduced into the enterprise, you needed a subsequent security product to address it. So if you think about mobile computing from a laptop standpoint in the 90s, so when we went from something the size of briefcase to something the size of a notebook, there needed to be a connectivity while you're on the road and in the advent of the VPN. From there, you saw email being used more readily, so you had antivirus, anti-spam and such, then you had your HR violations waiting to happen so you needed URL filtering. And anyway, so that was the evolution of security up until today where we have application-aware firewalls and things along that line.

Along the line, there was kind of a bifurcation. There was part of the market did appliances, and then there was Check Point, who only did software. And we utilized our partners to deliver the product on a hardware format. So we sold software licenses and that was it up until about 2007. And then we introduced appliances. And so we still sold open servers software, we still do that today but the customers spoke and they prefer appliances. And so what you've seen is the evolution of Check Point since 2007. We've increased the number of appliances we've delivered to or make available to our customers. In 2009, we bought one of our partners, Nokia. Their business or security business appliance subsidiary or what have you. And we have brought all that in-house. And at that same time, we introduced something called the Software Blade architecture, which was the first security platform out there. And each one of those blades was a module of software essentially. And that's kind of where we are today. So I'll throw it back to you because I know you want to get a little bit more in-depth.

Question-and-Answer Session

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Yes. So, let's, I guess, go a way deeper. And the other thing is that, the blade architecture. So let's start with that. When you came up with that, when did that start? What were their first blades? How has that evolved? What do you have today on the blades?

Kip Meintzer

So when we started, it was in 2009 with the introduction of the software blade architecture. From the beginning, we introduced the first blade with IPS. We also had URL filtering, AV, anti-malware and anti-spam. We had some other blades on the management side and such. About a year later, we came out with the blade called the Application Control and Identity Awareness. This is what most of you guys refer to as next-generation firewall that seems to be the term that's stuck out there in the marketplace. And from there, we've added -- well, what else have we added? We've added Anti-Bot. We also have our Endpoint solution, but we don't need to talk about that.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

[indiscernible]

Kip Meintzer

Still, it's on -- it's a future -- hopefully, it's a future growth opportunity, but for the time being, network security is where we really have our foothold. We also have a Mobile Access blade amongst others and so we've got a very nice portfolio of products that our customers can pick and choose from and deploy. The blades that we talked about -- when we talk about blade revenue, it's annuity blades. These are service type blades that are subscriptions. And most of them are a year. Well they all are a year, but you can get multiple-year contracts. And they address parts of the market but it ends up on a platform. So effectively, what we're doing is we're consolidating the industry. It's not going to work across the industry. They're still at the very high-end. Customers there will prefer to have point solutions. And each one of these blades is actually representative of a point solution. But what you will see over time is most likely -- we should say, most likely we'll see people start to consolidate. And we have a management console that's very rich and allows you to correlate all of this information and act accordingly.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Yes, I mean, I think you're over -- you were about $200 million run rate in that kind of annuity blade.

Kip Meintzer

We talked about a $200 million run rate at the end of 2011. The revenues for 2012 ended up being approximately around $160 million, $170 million in blade revenue, that's annuity blade revenue. That was about a 35% growth over the year before. We saw a 50% growth in the year for à la carte blades. Those are people that aren't buying it bundled, but are making an active choice. It's either their second year after the bundle or actively choosing not ever receiving a bundle. So, and the à la carte blade revenue is actually the majority of the revenue of the blade.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Any sense of how big you think that can be as a component of the overall size of Check Point? Or is that, I mean, maybe I could look at the TAM of the network security market...

Kip Meintzer

Well, if you look at the TAMs of those individual markets that those blades play in, it's going to be a subset of that. What we actually believe we're doing is we're creating elasticity in the market. Folks that otherwise couldn't afford to have that point solution because they either don't that have the sophistication or they don't have the bandwidth nor the money, we're actually providing them the opportunity to have this advanced technology inside their organization. And otherwise they probably would have never been able to afford it.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Right. Any sense of, which -- I mean, IPS is probably the most well adopted. How about after that? What are some of the big...

Kip Meintzer

App Control or the App Control Identity Awareness. So we have over 100,000 installs of the IPS and we have over 40,000 installs today of the App Control. They're our 2 largest. Followed by the third, which is URL filtering.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Another...

Kip Meintzer

We've also seen some great growth in the Anti-Bot blade, which we introduced earlier this year and it's done very well. We have sales in the thousands but -- units, but it's still early days. So we're very pleased with its traction.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Another dynamic with the cross-sell is that when you upgraded to GAiA, which was the OS release, it allows the old IPSO customers, the Nokia-based customers to adopt blades. Can you talk about where you are in that kind of process?

Kip Meintzer

So we introduced that in April 15. I believe it's when we went GA with the product. It's -- the great thing about it is it allows those IPSO customers now to make the transition to this unified appliance line. They can also, if their older appliance is not ready to be refreshed, they can manage it from the GAiA platform. It's very, very nice, it's the fastest uptake of any new introduction that we've seen. We've seen quite a few downloads out of the support center. It's doing very well. It remains to be seen, how quickly we get everybody converted over. But needless to say, we're very pleased with the traction we've gotten.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

I mean, how long are the -- we're talking years for that kind of transition?

Kip Meintzer

It took us -- it takes anywhere between 3 to 5 years to get the majority of people just to make it from R65 to the Software Blade architecture. The natural iteration to the next will remain to be seen. I don't know about a time line. But -- and we have some time left. It's not something that happens immediately. Remember, people who play with security are risk averse, so they like to move slowly on each thing.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Definitely. And then we're at -- one of other big announcements that your user conference was probably about a year ago now, was ThreatCloud.

Kip Meintzer

ThreatCloud.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Could you maybe talk about that -- yes, there we go. The other thing is, can you set the timer? It's still on 35 minutes.

Kip Meintzer

Oh yes, that helps.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

We've got plenty of time. So what is it -- is this something that's going to be impactful to the...

Kip Meintzer

So it's early days still. ThreatCloud is -- it goes hand-in-hand with all of our live blades, those subscription blades and it allows for a networking effect between our customers and Check Point and also censors we have through the Internet. And so it allows us, for folks that opt in to provide that information and also for people to opt in to receive the updates in real time. So as you have larger customers who encounter things probably more often than smaller customers, as they solve these problems or have these problems solved by the network, then that information can be pushed down in a very fast fashion and take care of updating everybody so we don't see a proliferation of these attacks. So it's a very nice product. It's early days, obviously. And it's going to go hand-in-hand with threat, bot and the rest. We've had good uptake, large customers, quite a few, but again it's early days.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Okay. So switching gears a little bit. You mentioned security buyers are risk averse by nature.

Kip Meintzer

Security buyers...

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Yes, are risk averse by nature. You're coming up with a lot of new product. I think there's a general perception in the investor community at least from the inbound questions that I get, that network security is becoming more price competitive, that the level of competitiveness has increased dramatically just in the last 18 months. How do you address that concern?

Kip Meintzer

Yes. I always like how my CEO talks about our chairman and founder because he says, "This has always been a competitive market." I mean, we used to be the little guy because you always had a Cisco that was out there basically bundling the product and giving it away free. And so Juniper does that, too. And you don't get much more competitive than that. Now, it is true there's been new entrants, but there's always been new entrants through the years. I -- what I would argue is that it's become a market that's gotten more attention because let's face it, there's -- you just have the president talk about a signing statement or whatever, and I'm not sure how much weight that carries, but it just gives you an idea to the level of notoriety security breaches and such are getting. So the idea that it's competitive, I think it's always been that way. As far as on the pricing side, there's always going to be a portion of the marketplace that's price sensitive. And they're the ones that start with price and they're a little -- I would argue that's the lower end of the market where they're less discernible about security. They're more worried about price. When you get to the higher end of the market, their first and foremost concern is, can this be what I need it to do? Is this the security that I need? Through the years, we've always been seen as the top in the class. I mean, nobody questions what Check Point's able to do. So as far as pricing, it's always been there. It's just to what degree. And I'm not sure that -- I think you made -- some folks mentioned commodity, I think we're far, far, far from commodity.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Looking at your margins, I...

Kip Meintzer

Yes, I think that's a given. It's not quite the endpoint market yet.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Yes. I don't want to go there. I guess, what, switching gears, you -- again, a little bit -- you had some big releases a year ago, a little over a year ago in terms of new appliance lines that improve the performance of your boxes 3x.

Kip Meintzer

Yes.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

What was the impact of that on revenues? And are we to the stage where we're anniversary-ing that?

Kip Meintzer

You saw my performance last year? The company's performance, right? Just kidding, just kidding. So obviously, we came out with these new appliances as part of the unification of our install base bringing the Nokia IPSO and the Check Point traditional SPLAT together and this had to do with bringing out GAiA and having one appliance line that would allow the backwards compatibility. So it was a natural transition. So when we did it, we delivered 3x the performance of the boxes. We didn't do anything heroic, we were just -- not even on the absolute latest Intel chips in some of the boxes. And so what we delivered was something that we thought would allow our customers to adopt more blades. So our strategy was give them the horsepower, they'll take the blades and we'll see that, that revenue stream show up on the subscription side. Unfortunately, we had 2 things go against us. One of the things is probably the macroenvironment of 2012. And the secondary aspect of it was FX. So when you look out there in the marketplace, we sell everything in dollars, except for in Japan, we do it in yen, and we take expenses locally. And so when the dollar moved like it did, I think it was down to $1.21 against the euro and such, you get people's budgets shrinking. And so the subsequent result was people decided to instead of buying 3x the power, chose to buy 2x the power. That can also be impacted by their outlook in the marketplace, how much growth they're going to see. But that was what happened. We also saw an increase in the number of appliances at the same time. The back-of-the-envelope was about a 15% to 20% decrease in price and we saw -- for the year, we saw 15% increase in units, which was very favorable. That could be caused because of a number of things. One, we are much more competitive with our products, so we were seeing people choose to buy our products instead of other competitors' products. On top of that, we also -- we're right at that the anniversary date where we could be seeing some of the refresh from appliances that we had sold in '07. So there are a lot of factors that could have led to that increased growth. A typical growth for a year is single digit, and so we finished the year with an average of right around 15%. So pretty good clip up. So we'll see how that goes for the coming year. We have some tough compares on the unit side but a fair compare on the ASP side per se.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Yes. Well, I mean, what's the typical growth of the market on a unit side basically?

Kip Meintzer

I don't know about -- yes, I don't know. Most in the market, they look at it from a dollar point of view, right? So I don't know what that translates to units. We know what our units are. Usually at single-digit unit growths per year. So the fact that we had double digit was an anomaly for us. It's nothing, it's sort of it can't happen in the future. It just doesn't seem likely.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Right. It sounds like -- well, it sounds like -- well, actually I'm going to open it up to others in the room that have questions. So if you do have questions, feel free to raise your hand. I've got a few more. Why don't we go right here.

Unknown Analyst

Yes. The yen [indiscernible] right now [indiscernible] the second half of last year, did you see that as a positive impact?

Kip Meintzer

So the question -- the what -- the question was in regards to the yen weakening and did we see that as a positive impact? And I guess, we didn't mention on the call and I don't want to step out at school, but no, it's not something we saw as a positive per se. So, let me think about this. So if we're selling in yen, it weakened, it wouldn't be -- that wouldn't be a strength, I don't believe. It will only be a...

Unknown Analyst

[indiscernible]

Kip Meintzer

Oh. So you're saying it made our product cheaper or what have you. If we're selling in yen, our price doesn't change if it's selling in yen. So the problem was your budget shrank in Europe, so you could buy less of our product if you were translating it to dollars. I don't think that's saying -- that wouldn't be the same case in yen, because the price isn't going to change per se.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Yes. And actually the distribution, I mean, you price in dollars, but it's really a buying capacity dynamic.

Kip Meintzer

Exactly.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Right. Any other questions from the audience? Okay. Well, I'll go through a couple more. We'll stick with currency. It made me think about how...

Kip Meintzer

Lovely.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Well, on the good side, you benefited a little bit on your expense base due to FX this last year.

Kip Meintzer

Yes.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

When you think about expenses, going forward, how do you think about margins? Can you keep them at these levels? Or do you feel like you want to invest more aggressively on R&D, and sales and marketing? How do you think about think about that?

Kip Meintzer

So what we've said in the fourth quarter was we are starting to invest more in sales and marketing. We talked about adding sales heads. Also, doing some new programs. I think Tal alluded to something about 100 basis point movement either way. What I always like to point out to folks is, remember, we don't target our operating margins. That's a result of what goes on with our business. Now, we are a very well run business. Actually, I believe one of the best run businesses you'll ever find. But as far as operating margin, we're not targeting it, we're trying to make dollars grow. So from that standpoint, we're always focused on the top end. Now, if we have our model and we have it set and we exceed on the top end, that can cause expansion in our operating margin. Whereas the opposite can be true, too. But it's not a focus of ours. Our focus is on growing the top line.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Okay. And yes, right here? I'll repeat the question if the mic's not [indiscernible].

Unknown Analyst

[indiscernible]

Kip Meintzer

Service is how it's charged. How you are charging for it, so if it's a subscription as far as why somebody would not opt to, it can be any number of reasons. It can be policy within their corporation so they can choose not to add data but take data. Or the trickier part is opting in providing data, right? But I think what we've seen mostly so far is people are encouraged by it because what -- you're benefiting from that networking effect, right? You get to leverage everybody at -- one of the things, one of the comments that was made to me by a CFO was he said the way we used to do this is you had your friends and you call them up and you said, "Hey, I've got this thing. Have you come across it?" And when you figured it out, then you passed it on to him. The problem was that everybody else was left in the dark. And so what this does is it takes that and turns it into the networking effect until everybody benefits from it. So it's not just a few but many. But first, what you have to have is you have the distribution. So you got to get the installs out there and the use of it. No one's going to argue that we don't have a very large install base, so that adds to that opportunity. So that's why it's -- we think we're in a very key position to distribute this type of technology.

Unknown Analyst

[indiscernible] everyone [indiscernible].

Kip Meintzer

And so, I can't go through the number. I don't think it'd be appropriate but it will be a large number and that's without a doubt. It's just like if everybody adopted our blades, it would be a large number. Nonetheless, you don't have to get everybody, you just got to get a good portion of them, right? But needless to say, that the network that's going to be the most favorable is the one that seems to produce the most results or is the largest. Sort of the Facebook effect, right? Nobody else -- Myspace, none of those, are even alive, anymore -- hardly. But the guy with the biggest still does.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Okay. We'll be right there.

Unknown Analyst

Two questions, Kip. Can you just remind us what you guys have...

Kip Meintzer

We only take one question from Boston.

Unknown Analyst

What you guys have committed to on the buyback front? That'll be simple. And then the second one is just now that you've seen this ASP unit thing for, I don't know how long, maybe a quarter or 2, can you just tell us how you feel about when it does come time to lapse that. It's hard to know but what kind of confidence or what kind of things are you seeing that might show that you can -- you'll be able to grow revenue pretty well when that -- after that kicks in?

Kip Meintzer

So on the buyback, we announced -- I think it was either the end of the second or end of the third, we announced -- it was end of the second quarter, I think, we announced $1 billion buyback over the course of 2 years. I think we've used a little over $300 million of it. We said we'd be opportunistic. I think we've demonstrated that we can be opportunistic. We can't use of all of our cash so we'll use right up to a buffer. It's the most we can use because we're still -- we can't go past cash flow is what I'm basically trying to say. So that does become our limiter at this point in time. It's nothing that says we won't re-up the buyback once we used up the full $1 billion. In fact, we're very clear it's available for a year -- it's available for 2 years, but we could use it up inside of that 2 years. But what we've told folks to do is when you're modeling or whatever, just assume $125 million a quarter or whatever, and then adjust accordingly as we use more or less, et cetera. As far as the ASP and the trade-down effect that took place at the beginning of the year when people are choosing lower-priced appliances rather than taking a like appliance that might have been there before, we saw in the third quarter a sequential uptick in ASP slightly, and then once again in the fourth quarter. I guess what gives us the confidence is we're now lapping, we lapped it part of the way in the fourth quarter and I think that's why you saw some of the performance besides the macro aspect. But in the first quarter, you have more of a fair compare as the challenge becomes units on that side. But we are confident throughout the year, we will have -- a positive product and license growth is what we're looking for. Now that's sans macro, sans any other exogenous things, events, but that's for definite. We believe that's definitely possible because now you don't have the apples-to-oranges effect going on.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Other questions in the room? Over here? Everybody's spread out, so.

Kip Meintzer

It's all right.

Unknown Analyst

A year ago when the new boxes were going out, there were a lot of blades that were going out as I don't want to say free, but they -- but on renewal, I think a lot of the customers have to pay for them. Can you talk about just what the renewal rate is on the blades that are now coming up for renewal? And are the current boxes shipping with -- for free or 1 year free blades as well, so that, I guess, we're going to keep on going through this lapping of blades that used to be for free and now are going to get paid for. Can you clarify?

Kip Meintzer

So you know the old adage "nothing in life is for free" right? So when we sell a box, we've embedded some of the cost in that box. But for all intents purpose, the customer sees it as they're getting it for free. And what we have to do because of the SOE is we have to take the -- allocate the capital that would be associated with the very specific observable evidence but what would be the amount for those blades and then we move that over to deferred and then recognize it over the course of the year. Now that still goes on. That's been going on since '09. In '09, we bundled 1 blade, we bundled the IPS blade in every box. As of the beginning of '11 or end of '10, we bundled IPS and Application Control. And so what's happening now, it's still the same thing, we're bundling the number of blades. The beginning, we anticipate a very low conversion rate or renewal rate on that first year. And what we were pleasantly surprised with is something in that 40% to 50% range. What we talked about in the latest quarter is on that first year renewal from the conversion rate from somebody who believes they got it for free to actually paying for it out right. We saw 50% renewal rate. On the à la carte side, we traditionally saw that between 60% and 70%. And in the latest quarter, we saw that move up to a hard 65%. Now that can still vary going forward, but that's what saw at the end of the quarter.

Unknown Analyst

Are you increasing the number of blades that are going in as part of what you called the annuity blades. So as the box goes out with more, it was 1 and then it went 2. Are you going to go to 3 or 4?

Kip Meintzer

We have not made plans or indicated that we are going to do that, going forward. Right now it stayed 2 blades for the last 2 years. You will find on lower-end boxes something that's more of a perimeter application that is having -- it can have as many as 7 blades in it. But again, it's -- the majority have 2.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Okay. We've got a couple more minutes. Are there any other questions from the audience? We'll go back to Boston.

Kip Meintzer

What did I tell you about Boston? Only one.

Unknown Analyst

[indiscernible] and then [indiscernible] having [indiscernible].

Kip Meintzer

So it's one of the age-old questions I've been getting lately. On the competitive side, when it comes to Palo Alto Networks or what have you, with next-generation firewall Application Control. In the introduction of -- when they introduced their product in the marketplace, I would say we were very quick to respond once we noticed that, that market was a market at that time. We introduced the product about a year after. We introduced the Software Blade architecture. So in 2010, I think the one thing you'll see very quickly is we've got quite a bit of adoption of that product. And if you look at all the third parties out there, the NSS Labs, the Gartners of the world, they were very quick to recognize that we had an equalizer in our product. In fact, it was quite frankly said that they were equal in the marketplace. Now we happen to believe that we have a superior product. We have more protection from things along the lines, plus we have a more robust platform. But what I would say is, as we began this conversation, this has always been a competitive market and always will be a competitive market. And there's always going to be new and up and comers. The question really becomes is this market going to consolidation or is it going to remain to be individual point solutions forever? And so I think only the future will tell. Well, we have a belief that consolidation is going to be a big part of it, but we've also taken and developed products that are point solutions. We now have a WAAS appliance, we have a threat prevention appliance where we've actually taken and created an apples-to-apples product that can address folks that want a point solution appliance rather than a consolidated product. So that's where we sit today and we'll see how it pans out in the future.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Well, Kip, [indiscernible ]. Yes, we're out of time.

Kip Meintzer

Yes.

Gregory Dunham - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

So, thanks. Thank you, Kip.

Kip Meintzer

Thanks, guys. Have a great day.

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Source: Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. Presents at Goldman Sachs Technology & Internet Conference 2013, Feb-13-2013 02:40 PM
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