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Key Points
Workday’s results are tepid relative to analysts’ forecasts but enough to keep the analysts happy and catalyze upward price target revisions. 
Share repurchases help to offset the dilutive impact of share-based compensation. 
Share prices may fall now, but that is a near-term event.
5 stocks we like better than Workday
Workday, Inc. NASDAQ: WDAY issued a lackluster FQ2 report that left the market wishing for more. However, as tepid as the results are, underperformance is relative to analysts’ consensus estimates. The results are strong for the business and shareholders, providing ample cash flow for capital returns, investment, and acquisitional growth. 
The takeaway is that share prices may fall now, but that is a near-term event. The long-term outlook is robust, and this stock will be moving higher. The question is how it may go now and how high it might get once the rebound begins. Get Workday alerts:Sign Up
Analysts defend Workday; consensus moves higher 
Analysts are defending their positions following the Q4 release, so don’t read too much into the earnings comparisons. Marketbeat.com tracks 32 analysts who view this company as the leading provider of back-office software solutions, and they are driving the market higher. Not only is Workday deepening penetration of services in domestic markets, but the opportunity for international expansion is robust, margins are solid, and acquisitions set it up to sustain growth long into the future. 
The analysts’ consensus target lags the market but is being led higher with revisions. Marketbeat is tracking five revisions in the first 24 hours since the release, including one lowered target and one reiterated that average to a consensus of $315 or 5% upside. These revisions have the consensus up 33% YOY and rising. The new targets include two more targets aligning with the range’s high-end or 15% upside. 
Workday has a solid quarter, guides for steady growth in 2024
Workday’s results were mixed, and the guidance was weak, only relative to the analysts’ consensus targets. The $1.92 billion in revenue was as expected but up 16.5% YOY, sustaining a fourth quarter of growth at this pace. Growth is supported by an 18% increase in subscriptions driven by full-platform business and large clients. Subscription backlog, a leading indicator of future results, grew by 27% on a 20% increase in 12 and 24-month contracts. The top-line growth resulted in another quarter of margin improvement. The GAAP operating margin improved to 4.1% versus last year’s 5.5% loss, while adjusted improved by 540 bps. This led to a 23% increase in operating cash flow and a 46% increase in free cash flow. Adjusted earnings are up 58% and outpaced consensus by a dime. 
The guidance is weak, with revenue expected to range near $7.755 billion for the year, compared to $7.7 billion forecasted by analysts. The caveat is that revenue growth will persist in the 16% to 17% range for another year, and earnings strength should continue. 
Workday capital returns and acquisitions boost stock price outlook 
Workday does not pay a dividend, but it does repurchase shares. Repurchases topped $420 million in Q4, and a new authorization was announced, but there is a catch. Share-based compensation more than offsets the repurchases, increasing the count by 4% YOY. In this light, the additional $500 million is good news for investors but may not support the price action in 2024 as well as it might. 
Workday announced the acquisition of HiredScore, which is good news for two reasons. The first is that HiredScore is a talent-solutions specialist and will fit nicely into Workday’s portfolio of businesses. The other is AI. HireScore is an AI-powered recruitment and HR management tool that can automate many HR functions while matching top candidates to any position. The deal amount was not disclosed but is expected to close in the 2nd quarter. Among the opportunities for Workday is building the brand, including it in new package deals, and cross-selling. 
The technical outlook: Workday uptrend is intact
Workday’s stock price fell nearly 5% following the Q2 release, but investors are buying the dip. The market moved down to the short-term 30-day EMA, bouncing to form a green candle. The market may move lower from here, but sideways action is indicated. The next few days will tell if the market can rebound from here; if so, new highs may be set by early spring. If not, new highs may not be reached until later in the year. 
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