Mastercard (NYSE: MA) and Palo Alto Networks (NYSE:PANW) are both large-cap technology companies, but which is the superior investment? We will contrast the two businesses based on the strength of their valuation, analyst recommendations, institutional ownership, earnings, dividends, profitability and risk.

Insider & Institutional Ownership

76.0% of Mastercard shares are owned by institutional investors. Comparatively, 79.9% of Palo Alto Networks shares are owned by institutional investors. 0.3% of Mastercard shares are owned by insiders. Comparatively, 4.8% of Palo Alto Networks shares are owned by insiders. Strong institutional ownership is an indication that large money managers, endowments and hedge funds believe a stock is poised for long-term growth.


This table compares Mastercard and Palo Alto Networks’ net margins, return on equity and return on assets.

Net Margins Return on Equity Return on Assets
Mastercard 38.70% 78.38% 23.78%
Palo Alto Networks -11.97% -15.77% -3.67%

Analyst Ratings

This is a breakdown of current recommendations and price targets for Mastercard and Palo Alto Networks, as reported by

Sell Ratings Hold Ratings Buy Ratings Strong Buy Ratings Rating Score
Mastercard 0 1 27 0 2.96
Palo Alto Networks 1 9 31 0 2.73

Mastercard presently has a consensus target price of $159.11, suggesting a potential upside of 3.19%. Palo Alto Networks has a consensus target price of $163.74, suggesting a potential upside of 12.05%. Given Palo Alto Networks’ higher possible upside, analysts plainly believe Palo Alto Networks is more favorable than Mastercard.

Volatility & Risk

Mastercard has a beta of 1.22, meaning that its share price is 22% more volatile than the S&P 500. Comparatively, Palo Alto Networks has a beta of 1.02, meaning that its share price is 2% more volatile than the S&P 500.


Mastercard pays an annual dividend of $0.88 per share and has a dividend yield of 0.6%. Palo Alto Networks does not pay a dividend. Mastercard pays out 20.5% of its earnings in the form of a dividend. Palo Alto Networks has increased its dividend for 5 consecutive years.

Earnings & Valuation

This table compares Mastercard and Palo Alto Networks’ gross revenue, earnings per share and valuation.

Gross Revenue Price/Sales Ratio Net Income Earnings Per Share Price/Earnings Ratio
Mastercard $10.78 billion 15.15 $4.06 billion $4.29 35.94
Palo Alto Networks $1.76 billion 7.62 -$216.60 million ($2.46) -59.40

Mastercard has higher revenue and earnings than Palo Alto Networks. Palo Alto Networks is trading at a lower price-to-earnings ratio than Mastercard, indicating that it is currently the more affordable of the two stocks.


Mastercard beats Palo Alto Networks on 10 of the 16 factors compared between the two stocks.

About Mastercard

MasterCard Incorporated is a technology company that connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses across the world, enabling them to use electronic forms of payment. The Company operates through Payment Solutions segment. The Company allows user to make payments by creating a range of payment solutions and services using its brands, which include MasterCard, Maestro and Cirrus. The Company provides a range of products and solutions that support payment products, which customers can offer to their cardholders. The Company’s services facilitate transactions on its network among cardholders, merchants, financial institutions and governments. The Company’s products include consumer credit and charge, commercial, debit, prepaid, commercial and digital. The Company’s consumer credit and charge offers a range of programs that enables issuers to provide consumers with cards allowing users to defer payment.

About Palo Alto Networks

Palo Alto Networks, Inc. offers a next-generation security platform. The Company’s security platform consists of three elements: Next-Generation Firewall, Advanced Endpoint Protection and Threat Intelligence Cloud. Its Next-Generation Firewall delivers application, user and content visibility and control, as well as protection against network-based cyber threats integrated within the firewall through its hardware and software architecture. Its Advanced Endpoint Protection prevents cyber attacks that run malicious code or exploit software vulnerabilities on a range of fixed and virtual endpoints and servers. Its Threat Intelligence Cloud provides central intelligence capabilities, security for software as a service applications and automated delivery of preventative measures against cyber attacks. Its products and services include firewall appliances, panorama, virtual system upgrades, subscription services, support and maintenance, and professional services.

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