FireEye CEO Confident Transformation To Platform Player Will Pay Off In 2016

After enduring hit after hit from Wall Street in recent months, with the company's stock dropping 35 percent in 2015, FireEye CEO Dave DeWalt said the company is confident that its transformation to a platform security player will pay off for the company and its partners in 2016.

"We really believe FireEye is perfectly positioned for 2016," DeWalt said on the company's fourth quarter earnings call Thursday.

Over the past few years, FireEye has undergone a transformation from an appliance vendor to a platform security player. The journey began around the company's initial public offering in 2013 and has included multiple product launches, several acquisitions, and repeated whacks from Wall Street analysts and investors. FireEye shares were up 1 percent in after hours trading to $12.54, well off the 52 week high of $55.33.

[Related: FireEye CEO Dodges Questions on Possible Exit Strategy On Q3 Earnings Call]

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Now, that transformation is around 80 percent complete, DeWalt said, with the company starting to see the pay-off in metrics such as total revenue, total billings and reversed operating cash flow losses. In the fourth quarter, that took the form of a 29 percent increase in sales to $184.8 million, a 21 percent increase in billings of $256.9 million, and a net loss of $123 million, compared to $115 million in the similar quarter a year ago.

"The depth and breadth of FireEye is beginning to show its strength," DeWalt said

For the full year 2015, FireEye reported sales of $623 million, up 46 percent year over year, and billings of $797.4 million, up 35 percent. The net loss for the year was $507 million, compared to $479 million in 2014.

The security vendor also made two changes to its board of directors, naming President and Mandiant founder Kevin Mandia to the board, effective Feb. 9. The vendor also appointed former Symantec CEO Enrique Salem as the lead independent director of the company.

DeWalt said FireEye continued to see the adoption of its platform accelerate in 2015, evidenced by a multi-product attach rate, with more than 85 percent of deals in the year involving more than one product. FireEye continued to extend its platform in 2015 with the development of its HX endpoint product, the launch of cloud and software solutions, and the acquisitions of Invotas and iSight Partners.

Those investments will help FireEye beat its competition, many of whom are also pushing to take on a platform-based approach to the market, DeWalt said. He said many of the competitors focus on "best of breed," while FireEye is focusing on "best of suite."

"Not many vendors have that full suite of capability delivered and if we can be there first and de-position the feature vendors, I think we have a hell of an opportunity to consolidate the market," he said.

The company's platform transformation will continue into 2016, CFO Michael Berry said.

"While we have made great progress…we also realize that we have more work to do as we continue to drive towards positive cash flow and profitability," Berry said.

That will take the form of incremental investments in professional services and FireEye-as-a-Service infrastructure, which he called "high growth areas." Other areas of the business will keep operating expenses flat, he said, as the company drives towards a more optimal cost structure.

One area of focus that will not change is the company's focus on the channel, DeWalt said. He said partners "delivered strong results" for the company in the quarter and for the year. For example, he said security solution provider behemoth Optiv posted a 48 percent FireEye sales gain on 440 transactions.

"The VAR and distribution model is important to our overall strategy and critical to our success," DeWalt said.

DeWalt said investments such as the company's new Essentials line, aimed at the mid-market and edge companies, as well as an updated partner program, will help partners continue to drive sales growth in 2016.

"One of the important, extremely important, imperatives we have for the company is gaining leverage for our partner community," DeWalt said, recognizing the "turmoil and chop" the company saw with its channel in recent years around its Mandiant acquisition.

Going forward, FireEye said it expects total sales for the first quarter to be between $167 and $177 million. It expects a net loss per share to be between 49 cents - 53 cents per share. For the full year, FireEye expects sales between $815 and $845 million, and non-GAAP loss per share between $1.25 and $1.32.