Facebook has managed to get two bearish analysts to change their mind.
Carlos Kirjner at Bernstein Research and Rich Greenfield at BTIG have both upgraded the stock this morning. We've written up Greenfield's note here, if you want to read it. (In short, he thinks Facebook's plan to stuff ads in the mobile news feed is going help it beat Q4 estimates.)
As for Kirjner, he's rating the stock "outperform," and has a $33 price target.
Here's why in a nutshell:
We think consensus is underestimating Facebook's revenue growth potential over the next 12-24 months. We think Facebook is on path to beat consensus revenues over the next 12-24 months, delivering $6,976 million in 2013, 9% higher than consensus' $6,388 million, and $8,650 million in 2014, or 7% higher than consensus' $8,078 million. Further monetization of (mobile) Newsfeed inventory will be the main driver of growth, as we believe that for the next 18-24 months Facebook probably can increase the number of ad impressions per user per day with limited chance of seeing material deterioration in user experience. We also believe that at this point and for the near-to-medium term, its revenue growth trajectory will be the main driver of Facebook's stock performance. In addition to mobile, further monetization of the PC Newsfeed and the positive impact of the Facebook Exchange on right-hand-side column CPMs will help drive growth.
Beyond this, Kirjner believes Facebook's social advertising initiatives can work:
Social, new businesses opportunities and the platform remain options for further upside for the next two years and beyond. The successful monetization of Newsfeed inventory and introduction of the Facebook Exchange have given Facebook an 18-24 month runway to develop new revenue streams from new formats (e.g., gifts), to work with advertisers and third parties such as Datalogix and Nielsen to improve (online brand) advertising ROI and its measurement, which would enhance its long-term pricing, and to continue pushing adoption of social across the Web with its platform play, based on Facebook Connect and the Open Graph Protocol. In other words, we still think of Facebook as a distinctive display advertising business, but mobile and the exchange make it better and larger, and extend the time horizon Facebook has to realize the potential of new business opportunities and of social advertising.
The bottom line here is that Facebook has shown it's willing to build a big business, something analysts didn't think would happen. And now they're upgrading the stock. They are still cautious about how it all plays out, but overall there is reason to be positive about the stock for the first time since it became publicly traded.
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