Netflix Shares Fall On Concerns Rivals Will Slow Its Growth

Netflix shares fell 3.4% today following a second major analyst downgrade in the past two days. Jefferies Equity Research’s John Janadis assumed coverage of the company and just dropped his firm’s recommendation to “underperform.” He slashed the target stock price by a third to $80 — well below today’s closing price of $94.60.

The main problem, he says, is that rivals including Hulu and Amazon are becoming more potent. As a result, “it will take longer than expected for [Netflix] to reach the long term targets set for the U.S. streaming business.”

With its plan to spend $5 billion on programming this year, and $6 billion in 2017, Janedis figures Netflix could burn $1 billion a year in cash. The risks of a flop also will rise as major content owners — fearful of Netflix’s growing clout — save their best shows for its rivals or their own platforms.

Efforts to attract subscribers overseas also will be “more modest than consensus expectations” as Netflix grapples with “local players (which carry more local content), language barriers, underdeveloped infrastructure in emerging markets, and an expensive price point, among other cultural challenges specific to individual countries.”

Janedis’ report comes a day after Needham & Co’s Laura Martin downgraded Netflix to “hold.” She fears that the company will be hurt by economic ripples through Europe following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

“The European Commission (EC) is discussing whether to impose a 20% European content quota on [subscription video on demand] streaming sites like Netflix,” she says. “Worse yet, it is also discussing whether to set local content investment quotas. The French press reports that [Netflix] could be required to contribute 15-26% of its French revenue to support film and television production in France.”

But Netflix still has plenty of fans on Wall Street. Yesterday, Guggenheim Securities added the company to its “Best Ideas” list with a $150 target price. Investors “under-appreciate the long-term domestic opportunity that is presented by an industry-low hourly consumption cost to the consumer,” he says. “We expect Netflix to continue to take usage share from traditional linear networks and as such see the company having greater potential for future domestic price increases than current consensus expectations imply.”

Netflix was the Standard & Poor’s 500’s highest flying stock last year as its share price appreciated 134.4%. But the story changed in 2016: It’s down 17.4% since the new year began.

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