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Crowdstrike Holdings warning sparks selloff in cybersecurity stocks

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows words CYBER SECURITY and binary code

(Reuters) -A warning from Crowdstrike Holdings Inc that clients were cutting back on spending and delaying purchases due to an economic slowdown slammed cybersecurity stocks on Wednesday, inflicting fresh pain on the battered sector.

Crowdstrike's shares sank nearly 19% in morning trading after the company forecast current-quarter revenue on Tuesday that fell short of analysts' estimates, while peers Zscaler Inc, SentinelOne Inc and Palo Alto Networks Inc fell between 2% and 11%.

"Increased macroeconomic headwinds elongated sales cycles with smaller customers and caused some larger customers to pursue multi-phase subscription start dates," Crowdstrike Chief Executive Officer George Kurtz said.

The results are the latest in a series of dour reports from cybersecurity firms, whose business boomed during the pandemic but is now seeing a slowdown, making them a hot target for private equity buyouts.

"Resilient, but not immune is a theme that will likely dominate the narrative during our October quarter-cohort earnings cycle," Piper Sandler analysts said.

"Both Palo Alto Networks and now Crowdstrike have talked about macro weakness entering the picture on their earnings calls - sending a signal to brace for further potential weakness from other vendors in the space."

Still, some analysts see long-term benefits from the rising demand for cybersecurity as more businesses take to the web and high-profile hacks force companies to be more cautious.

That, as well as year-to-date share drops of up to 69%, have made these companies buyout targets. In October, Vista Equity Partners agreed to take KnowBe4 Inc private in a $4.6 billion deal, while earlier this year Thoma Bravo said it would buy Ping Identity for $2.4 billion.

(Reporting by Aditya Soni; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)