UPDATE, 1:19 PM: Netflix euphoria grew as the day wore on. The stock closed at $115.81, an 18% increase from yesterday’s close, and touched a new high of $116.49.
PREVIOUS, 7:45 AM: Netflix investors aren’t merely breathing a sigh of relief this morning, following the company’s better-than-expected Q2 performance announced last night. Many are doubling down on one of the riskiest bets on Wall Street.
Company shares — which appreciated by more than 100% in the first half of 2015 — hit an all-time high of $111.09 shortly after the market opened and are up 11.7% in early trading. That means the company is selling for nearly 200 times its trailing 12-month earnings — a scary high ratio. Carl Icahn recently bailed out, as did another prominent and steely nerved investor: Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn. (He told his backers that when he watched the third season of House Of Cards it “appeared to be scripted to compete with Ambien.”)
But many analysts say this morning that they’re still enthusiastic about CEO Reed Hastings’ strategy to spend heavily on content and overseas expansion to put Netflix in position to dominate the global streaming video business.
Those raising their stock price targets today include Cowen & Co’s John Blackledge (raising his forecast 37.6% to $150), RBC Capital Markets’ Mark Mahaney (+25% to $125), Nomura Securities’ Anthony DiClemente (+12% to $120), and Credit Suisse’s Stephen Ju (+10% to $110).
Mahaney says that the accelerating pace of subscriber sign-ups “suggests we’re only in the 4th or 5th inning” which means “there’s still upside ahead for [Netflix] shares.”
DiClemente says he’s “increasingly confident in [Netflix’s] long-term earnings power.”
And Blackledge says that “with the original content strategy clearly paying off, we see a lot to like.”
But Piper Jaffrey’s Michael Olson, who raised hit price target 37% to $96, warns buyers to “expect periodic pullbacks” and wait to “take advantage of more attractive entry points.”
And Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter remains a Jeremiah, predicting that Netflix shares could collapse to his target of $40. His concern: execs underestimate how much they’ll have to spend for content.
They said yesterday that the outlay could near $5 billion next year. But as the company grows “content owners will demand participation in any future price increase, driving content hosts higher as a percentage of revenues,” Pachter warns.
The analyst also remains skeptical that Netflix’s originals “will achieve critical mass sufficient to drive meaningful profitability over the next several years. We also expect meaningful competition in 2016 and beyond, resulting in slower subscriber growth.”