ServiceNow: Same Old Beat, Same High Price

ServiceNow: Same Old Beat, Same High Price

ServiceNow continued a trend of recent outperformance with its Q2 earnings release, beating on both the top and bottom line.

Revenues accelerated 4 points to 41% y/y growth this quarter.

However, the lack of a meaningful raise to ServiceNow's guidance range makes this quarter a bit less exciting.

ServiceNow's double-digit revenue multiple, as well as a consistently high valuation, makes it difficult to support a bullish case for this company.

So far, the Q2 earnings season has proven to us that there is no such thing as invincible names among the high-flying tech stalwarts. Both Netflix (NFLX) and Facebook (FB) have suffered harrowing falls after reporting their results; last quarter, software favorites Workday (WDAY) and Red Hat (RHT) also saw plummeting stock prices after releasing Q1 results. The recent series of upsets has investors wondering: is this going to be the big reset year for the perpetually high technology sector?

Among the fall of these giants, however, ServiceNow (NOW) has consistently stood tall. The dominant vendor of IT service desk software has continued its rapid growth trend yet again this quarter; even as it approaches a ~$3 billion revenue run rate, it still managed to post a four-point acceleration to revenue growth to exit the quarter at a >40% y/y growth rate. We can't underplay this accomplishment - ServiceNow and its management team certainly deserve kudos for driving the business so effectively.

Yet I've always been extremely cautious on ServiceNow's stock, especially now that its valuation has soared through the roof amid a market environment that is incredibly sensitive to valuations and even the slightest of earnings misses. ServiceNow has been careful over the past few quarters never to raise its expectations too high (in fact, a tamely increased guidance range this quarter is one of the reason I don't think this Q2 release is that exciting), so it runs a lower risk of missing Wall Street estimates. Yet at what point will investors be unwilling to keep plowing money into ServiceNow's continually expanding valuation? Year to date, shares of ServiceNow have already jumped more than 40%, while the stock now sports the second-highest forward revenue valuation at 12.3x in the large-cap SaaS sector, second only to another perpetual high-flyer in Adobe Systems (ADBE).