On cloud nine: Why these cloud security stocks are soaring

It’s a good day to be in the cloud.

Cloud and cybersecurity stocks like CrowdStrike, Okta, and Zscaler are soaring on Thursday after the trio reported booming earnings amid a pandemic that has accelerated businesses’ shift to the cloud and remote work.

On Thursday CrowdStrike was trading nearly 14% higher in afternoon trading, while Zscaler zoomed over 25% and Okta was up roughly 4% in afternoon trading. Snowflake was also on a tear Thursday, up over 12% in afternoon trading after reporting its first quarter since its IPO in September.

Revenues for Okta were up 42% from the previous year in the 3rd quarter, while CrowdStrike and Zscaler also beat earnings Wednesday, with revenues up 86% and 52% year-over-year, respectively. Snowflake reported revenues up 119% from the previous year.

For those like Wedbush Securities’s Dan Ives, the big earnings beats are “another seminal moment in this cloud transformation underway and put more fuel into this rally in cyber security names across the board,” Ives wrote in a note Thursday. He believes the “blowout earnings across the board from these three next generation software leaders that surprised even the biggest bulls given the strength … is another key data point speaking to the cloud and digital transformation that is still in the early days of playing out.”

As has been the big theme of 2020, Morningstar analyst Mark Cash notes the pandemic “hastened digital transformation efforts and the need to adopt zero-trust security practices, which benefits Zscaler,” and believes the company can top its forward earnings estimates, Cash wrote in a note Wednesday. Wedbush’s Ives, meanwhile, believes the company “looks to be in the drivers seat on the cloud cyber security shift over the next decade.”

Many on the Street argue the big cloud theme won’t just be booming in 2020. Analysts like Ives and Morningstar’s Cash believe names like Zscaler and CrowdStrike will continue to gain share, as Cash wrote in a Thursday note that “CrowdStrike’s customer base, revenue, and margins will experience profound growth throughout the 2020s as customers update their endpoint and workload security requirements in a hybrid-cloud world.” Okta, meanwhile, “continues to gain customers at a fast clip while also showcasing larger deal sizes and impressive upsell results,” Cash wrote in a Wednesday note.

And for cloud and cybersecurity stocks overall, Wedbush’s Ives estimates “with 33% of workloads currently on the cloud moving to 55% by 2022 based on our analysis, we believe the digital transformation shift to cloud for both enterprises and governments is being accelerated by up to 12 to 18 months,” with Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) “leading the way.”

But that rush has certainly driven up premiums for many of the names in the space. Indeed, CrowdStrike, Zscaler, and Okta all currently trade at price-to-earnings multiples that register as “not meaningful” as they’re so high (All three companies, meanwhile, remain unprofitable). And the debate about a cloud and tech bubble in 2020 rages on. All three stocks are up at least 100% each this year.

But some analysts like Ives argue the “fundamental drivers and sweet spot of cloud demand continue to give us high conviction in owning the secular winners in the cyber security sector.” Pointing to the “robust” earnings from names like Zscaler and CrowdStrike, he argues “this cloud story is still in the early days of playing out and bodes well for cyber names heading into 2021.”

While investors may be on cloud nine following the strong earnings, they’d be well to remember their multiples are also sky-high.

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