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Stifel, Nicolaus starts Check Point with Hold rating

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midastouch017   Sunday, 12/04/05 07:20:59 AM
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Stifel, Nicolaus starts Check Point with Hold rating
01.12.05 | 14:44 By Omri Cohen

The number of analysts recommending that investors buy into Check Point Software Technologies (NASDAQ: CHKP) is still greater than the number of ones cool on the stock. But the Israeli data security company has been hung with three Hold recommendations in the last month, which could attest to a trend.
The first was Piper Jaffray, which downgraded Check Point from Outperform to Market Perform after the company reported its third-quarter results.
Two weeks later, Wedbush Morgan did the same, reducing from Buy to Hold, and today Stifel, Nicolaus & Co (NYSE:SF) has started Check Point with a Hold rating.

Analysts Todd Weller and Chad Chilcot began coverage of the Israeli company after buying the capital market operations of Legg Mason Wood Walker, which had covered Check Point, they explain.
Like their colleagues at other investment banks, they note Check Point's leading position in network security solutions, but the absence of growth in its core business.

"It is not apparent that recent new products? have gained significant traction," they write.

The acquisition of Zone is working well and the acquisition of Sourcefire is a good move, because it improves Check Point's positioning intrusion prevention and detection, they say.

But Check Point's revenue growth has been slowing, begging questions about its long-term growth potential, they conclude.

In the third quarter, its revenue growth dropped 9.1% compared with 13.9%in the second quarter and 18.6% in the first quarter. In absolute terms, growth was still slowing, from a quarterly increase of $21.6 million in January-March, to $11.7 million in July-September.
Check Point must demonstrate accelerating growth from new product areas to lift its multiple, they conclude.

They did not set it a target price, but predict 2005 earnings per share of $1.30, rising to $1.44 per share in 2006.
This year Check Point stock has lost 13.6%, after rising 46% in 2004. Yesterday it closed at $21.30 on Nasdaq.

Stock in Check Point, a data security company



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