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Check Point Software sees strong 2017 after fourth-quarter tops estimates

By Tova Cohen

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Network security firm Check Point Software Technologies forecast better-than-expected profit and revenue in 2017 after posting quarterly results that beat expectations on strong growth in demand for its security products.

Growth was particularly high for technology to protect from unknown threats, called advanced threat prevention, as well as for mobile and cloud, three areas the company plans to focus on in 2017.

Israel-based Check Point on Thursday forecast earnings per share excluding one-time items of $5.05-$5.25 in 2017 on revenue of $1.85 billion-$1.9 billion.

Analysts on average were forecasting EPS of $4.89 on revenue of $1.83 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"We realized triple-digit growth across our focus areas of mobile and advanced threat prevention," Chief Executive Gil Shwed said of the fourth quarter of 2016.

New customer wins and increasing demand for its cloud protection is also boosting growth.

"The shift to cloud is accelerating and people don't understand this means another layer needs to be secured," Shwed told reporters.

Check Point said it is adding a few hundred customers per quarter for cloud security. Overall, it says it has more than 100,000 business customers.

He said in a survey of its customers, 99 percent were not securing their mobile devices and 98 percent were not implementing cloud security yet. Only four percent were deploying advanced threat prevention.

"This is quite alarming and highlights growth opportunity," Shwed said.

Check Point's market share is growing, Shwed said, adding that his analysis of internal data showed Check Point's growth in sales of products was double that of the nearest competitor.

Check Point earned $1.46 per diluted share excluding one-time items in the fourth quarter, up from $1.20 a year earlier. Revenue grew 6 percent to $487 million. It was forecast to earn $1.25 a share on revenue of $478 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Its shares were up 6.2 percent at $95.19 in early Nasdaq trade.

"We expect the shares to be in positive territory in the coming days," Oppenheimer analyst Shaul Eyal said. For the first quarter of 2017 Check Point forecast adjusted EPS of $1.15-$1.20 on revenue of $420-$440 million.

For all of 2016, Check Point earned $4.72 per share, up 13 percent, while revenue grew 7 percent to $1.74 billion.

(Reporting by Tova Cohen; Editing by Steven Scheer and Elaine Hardcastle)