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He raised his target price for the company’s stock by 50% to $33, which in normal times would seem like a huge endorsement. But he also cut his rating for the stock from “outperform” to “underperform,” his firm’s equivalent of “sell.”
It’s just one of many odd examples of how Wall Street analysts are trying to deal with GameStop’s unusual run-up. The company’s business fundamentals—falling sales and net losses for the past two years—are nearly irrelevant to the rise in its stock, which has been fueled by members of the Reddit message board, WallStreetBets.
After spending most of 2020 in single digits, GameStop’s stock rose steadily in November and December before suddenly quadrupling in the opening weeks of January. As Telsey was urging investors to get out on Monday, the stock hit $159 and then a few days later was almost at $500 before a halt on customers of brokerage Robinhood from buying more shares led to even more volatility. The machinations have led to huge losses at a few hedge funds that had been betting against GameStop by shorting the stock.
At midday on Friday, GameStop’s shares were trading for about $333, giving the company a market value of $23 billion.
The Telsey analyst’s earlier bullish call on the stock, dating from September, came as an activist investment fund was pushing for change and the retail chain seemed poised to benefit from excitement over new generations of gaming consoles from Microsoft and Sony.
But the Reddit-driven price level “far exceeds our high fundamental expectations and projected multiyear benefits of the new gaming cycle,” Feldman wrote. “We believe the current share price and valuation levels are not sustainable, and we expect the shares to return to a more normal/fair valuation driven by the fundamentals.”
At Baird Equity Research, analyst Colin Sebastian did not downgrade his rating on GameStop from “neutral” in a new report on Thursday. But his target price of $13 was about 95% below the stock’s price at the time.
Still, Sebastian did say that GameStop could thrive if shifted to selling mostly games online, started holding gaming tournaments, continued selling used gaming gear, and closed most of its physical stores. Though he gave low odds to GameStop successfully making such a transition, the analyst concluded he may raise his target for the stock to $20.
“While we continue to evaluate the long-term potential for GameStop’s hybrid online/offline model, and believe that structural risks remain abundant, we realize that near-term stock performance is at least partially detached from fundamentals, and thus maintain a Neutral rating,” he wrote.
Several other analysts who follow GameStop have not issued new reports since its most recent financial disclosure report on Jan. 11, when the stock was trading between $17 and $20 a share. At that time, the company said that sales for the final nine weeks of 2020 had declined 3% to $1.77 billion.
In her Jan. 11 report, Stephanie Wissink, an analyst at Jefferies, rated the stock a “hold” with a price target of $15. One “optimistic option” for GameStop would be if the company transitioned to selling more digital games and exploiting its loyal customer base “in a marketplace where billions of dollars are spent to acquire and activate engagement,” she wrote.
And Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush, rated GameStop “neutral” in his Jan. 11 report with a price target of $16. Still, Pachter wrote that he had a “positive bias” on the stock and praised the company’s strategy of expanding online sales alongside its stores, a retailing tactic known as omnichannel marketing.
“We think GameStop can manage its business with fewer stores staffed more conservatively, making up lost sales via its omnichannel offering,” he wrote. “Further, with a full-fledged recession underway, the need for trade-in currency is greater than ever, and we expect GameStop’s used business to thrive in this environment.”
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This story was originally featured on Fortune.com