DreamWorks Animation execs must shudder every time CLSA Americas’ Vasily Karasyov reports on the studio. Its stock price is down about 6.1% to $19.44 a share in mid-day trading after the analyst, one of DWA’s sharpest critics, lowered his target price by 35.3% to $11 — warning that the Street still has “unrealistic expectations” about its potential earnings.
We’ve seen this story before: Shortly after DWA shares hit a 52-week high of $29.75 in early June, Karasyov contributed to a downturn by urging investors to sell, setting his target price at $17.
Today’s report is noteworthy because many investors listened to him and other bears. DWA’s share price dropped 26.1% in the period after that report came out and yesterday.
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In early August DWA reported disappointing Q2 earnings. By late August the stock hit a 52-week low of $17.82, lower than it was in late January just after CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg announced a painful restructuring following a string of underperforming movies. He vowed to cut movie production costs, and diversify revenues by boosting television, online video, and consumer products.
Some analysts said that DWA had been beat up enough. For example, AwesomenessTV — the company’s video streaming property — “represents an interesting wildcard” that could combine with “additional monetization moves in the quarters ahead,” B. Riley’s Eric Wold said in late August as he upgraded DWA to a “buy.”
But Karasyov warns that investors are still too optimistic — even if you believe, as he does, that DWA will make a profit on its next four films: Kung Fu Panda 3, Trolls, Boss Baby, and The Croods 2.
DWA trades at about 29 times analysts’ expected earnings for 2016. That makes the stock more expensive than rivals including Lionsgate (which trades at 20 times expected earnings) and Disney (at 18 times). Put another way, it suggests that buyers believe DWA will do a lot better than analysts project.
That’s “very unlikely,” the analyst says. On the film side, DWA “hasn’t had two profitable releases in one year since 2011.” He also notes that the company recently cut its guidance for revenues from licensed merchandise by 50%.
What’s more, other analysts may still be too optimistic. The consensus forecasts for DWA’s cash flow “were wrong every year since the company’s IPO” in 2004, Karasyov says.
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