Citing data from its own polling of consumers as well as its financial analysis, UBS issued a downgrade of Netflix stock to “neutral” from “buy.”
In a research report issued after the close of trading, the Wall Street investment firm said the streaming service’s stock, which closed today at $418.65, is simply overextended. It has gained 117% in 2018 to date and has given the company a richer valuation than traditional media giants like Disney and Comcast.
“At these levels, we think Netflix stock reflects little in the way of any risks to the downside from competition, free cash flow burn, and dependence on capital markets for content spending goals,” said the report, whose lead author is UBS analyst Eric Sheridan. “The risk/reward is no longer compelling.”
Netflix will report second-quarter results next week, and UBS expects domestic subscriber numbers to be in line with company projections, with strong growth internationally driven by a surge of adoption in India.
The bearish sentiment contrasts with recent upgrades and increased 12-month price targets from various other analysts. Sheridan, significantly, lays some blame on the content offering, which he considers to be a mixed bag. Citing data from the UBS “Evidence Lab” and its semi-annual survey of 2,000 consumers gauging sentiment about the streaming marketplace, it says U.S. consumption trends are “weakening.” Google search analysis, the report says, “suggests sequel seasons for many core franchises in Q2 (most notably 13 Reasons Why
and Luke Cage
) are under-performing prior seasons.”
Sheridan conceded that Netflix “does have a very robust” third-quarter slate, “which could reinvest consumption/search trends but likely means the realization of content and marketing spend.”
The Evidence Lab looked at app downloads and other metrics in dozens of markets and territories around the world and found that mature markets like the U.S., Brazil and Mexico “all experiences deterioration.” Other Western Hemisphere markets, such as France, the UK and Germany “experienced sequential decline,” the report said.