Check Point’s Shwed to step down as CEO to become ‘active’…

By Steven Scheer

JERUSALEM, Feb 6 (Reuters) – Gil Shwed plans to step down as CEO of Check Point Software Technologies after 30 years and become executive chairman of the Israeli-based network and cyber security firm.

Shwed’s announcement on Tuesday overshadowed forecast-beating fourth-quarter results from Check Point, as well as positive first-quarter and 2024 profit and revenue projections.

“It’s the right timing and the perfect timing – we are in a very positive trend,” Shwed told reporters.

Shwed, Online Sex a product of Israel’s military 8200 intelligence unit, co-founded Check Point in 1993 and is widely credited with being the inventor of the modern firewall.

Check Point has since grown to become one of Israel’s largest technology firms and has increasingly boosted the use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools to combat cyber threats.

“I am very confident and energetic about our technology pipeline and all the things that we were trying to do and we’re still trying to do in Check Point,” the 55-year-old added.

Check Point’s Nasdaq-listed shares are up 5.2% so far in 2024 at $160.80 – just shy of a record hit last week – after a 21% rise in 2023. Its market value stands at $19 billion.

Its shares opened up 2% at $164.

For 2024, Check Point expects a rise of up to 9% in revenue to $2.48-$2.63 billion, after a 4% rise to $2.4 billion last year, and versus analysts’ estimates of $2.53 billion. It sees net profit ex-items of $870-$930 million, up 7% compared with $8.42 in 2023, and expectations of $9.05.

Shwed said a global search for a new CEO could take six months to two years and he would prefer the post to remain in Tel Aviv, where the firm is headquartered.

“I am not retiring,” he said, adding that he was looking for a replacement “passionate” about cyber security.

“I expect to stay very much hands-on. Check Point is my life and I want to be here and work every day.”

Check Point reported $2.57 per diluted share excluding one-off items for the October-December quarter, up 5% from $2.45 a year earlier. The rise was driven by 15% sales growth in subscriptions for its platform that prevents attacks across networks, mobile and the cloud. Revenue grew 4% to $664 million.

That beat the $2.48 a share on revenue of $661.5 million expected by analysts, LSEG data showed.

Shwed said the war between Israel and Hamas had not impacted the company, which had seen good customer support.

In the first quarter, Check Point foresees revenue of $575-$610 million and adjusted EPS excluding one-offs of $1.95-$2.05.

Check Point said it bought back 2.2 million shares worth $313 million in the quarter in an ongoing $2 billion programme. (Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Jason Neely and Alexander Smith)