Pivotal Software loses almost half its value after 'train wreck' of an earnings report

Key Points
  • Wedbush downgraded Pivotal stock in the wake of the earnings report.
  • The company said it's taking steps to fix sales execution issues.
Pivotal Software CEO Rob Mee.
Source: Pivotal Software

Pivotal Software shares crashed on Wednesday, knocking off nearly half the company's market value, after a light revenue forecast raised concerns that demand for its products is weakening.

The stock plunged as much as 45% to a low of $10.10 and closed at $10.89, down 41%, pulling its market capitalization down to about $3 billion. Prior to Wednesday, Pivotal's worst day since its IPO last year came in September, when the shares dropped 20%.

Pivotal, which sells subscriptions for software that's designed to help companies deploy applications across multiple clouds, lowered its full-year revenue guidance and now expects sales of $756 million to $767 million, well below the Refinitiv consensus estimate of $803 million.

CEO Rob Mee told analysts on a conference call after hours on Tuesday that the company was experiencing sales execution problems.

"Some of the deals we expected to close in Q1 slipped," Mee said. He highlighted "a complex technology landscape that is lengthening our sales cycle."

It's a theme investors have heard from other enterprise technology vendors competing in crowded markets against large incumbents and high-growth upstarts. Pure Storage had its worst day ever as a public company last month following disappointing earnings. In lowering its outlook for the year earlier this week, Box Chief Financial Officer Dylan Smith pointed to "anticipation of longer sales cycles across our larger deals." Zuora CEO Tien Tzuo said his company needed to improve its sales execution based on its latest quarterly results, which led to a 30% plunge in the stock on Friday.

For the fiscal second quarter, Pivotal expects revenue of $185 million to $189 million, trailing the average analyst estimate of $198 million, according to Refinitiv.

Mee described some of the complexity in the market as related to public cloud companies providing traditional on-premises offerings. He didn't provide names, but Amazon Web Services leads the public cloud market and has been promoting its ability to serve customers even in their own data centers. He also mentioned Kubernetes, open-source software created at Google that lets developers easily move around their applications and workloads.

"I think it's really causing customers to take their time and think about what they're doing," Mee said. He added that the company named a new head of sales for the Americas.

Pivotal's first-quarter results were actually better than expected. The company reported a loss of 3 cents per share, excluding certain items, on $185.7 million in revenue. Analysts polled by Refinitiv had been expecting a loss of 5 cents per share on $184.1 million in revenue.

Some analysts downgraded the stock after the report. Daniel Ives and Strecker Backe of Wedbush Securities, reduced their rating to "neutral" from "outperform," cut their price target from $26 to $15 and described the quarter and guidance as a "train wreck."

"It is clear to us that this management team does not have a handle on the underlying issues negatively impacting its sales cycles and the activity in the field which gives us concern that this quarter will be the start of some 'dark days ahead' for Pivotal," the analysts wrote.

They said Pivotal could be an acquisition prospect over time, but for now no buyer would closely consider it because of the issues it faces with growth.

Alex Kurtz and Steven Enders of KeyBanc Capital Markets maintained their "overweight" rating on Pivotal but lowered their price target from $27 to $21.

"Better understanding the breadth of the demand slowdown will be an important factor in this lowered outlook, as the miss could be localized to a handful of accounts given PVTL deal size," the analysts wrote.

With Wednesday's drop, Pivotal shares are down 33% this year.

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