Since we downgraded Symantec on January 6, 2005, concerns regarding the acquisition and integration of VERITAS, as well as a secular shift away from Symantec’s largest consumer security channel, have significantly outweighed bullish drivers. Now, however, we believe that near-term positives, which we have assembled from industry contacts, channel checks, and company meetings, outnumber the risks to the stock.
Winslow sees a variety of reasons to buy the stock now. Pick the one you like best:
Although Symantec’s stock has rebounded nicely from its recent lows, near-term drivers - including the likelihood for positive EPS revisions given conservative operating margin guidance and consensus expectations; easier year-over-year growth comps in the consumer business due in part to an on-time shipment of Norton 2007 products; recovering sales force productivity; completion of the company’s ERP and combined buying program rollouts in the December quarter; etc. - outweigh the negatives and lead us to the conclusion that Symantec’s stock price will continue to move higher…we expect EPS estimates to continue to move higher and the stock’s valuation discount to the broader software industry to close.
Winslow raised his profit estimates, based on expectatons for “margin expansion beyond consensus expectations, drive by sales force productivity and cost controls.” He now expects profits ex-stock option expense for fiscal 2007 of $1.13 a share, up from $1.11; for 2008 he now expects $1.32 a share, up from $1.26. “We believe upside potential remains in our estimates,” he writes.
Winslow raised his price target on the stock to $24, from $19.
In pre-market trading this morning, Symantec shares wre up about 38 cents, or 2%, to $20.15.
Mark Veverka wrote a bullish piece about Symantec, which makes security and storage software, in last week’s Barron’s.
Goldman Sachs includes the stock on its list of favorite tech value plays.