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Netflix Bulls on Wall Street Shrug Off Weak Subscriber View

Catherine Larkin
Netflix Bulls on Wall Street Shrug Off Weak Subscriber View

(Bloomberg) -- Netflix Inc.’s underwhelming subscriber forecast hasn’t dissuaded bulls on Wall Street even as the stock edged lower in midday trading.

Strong first-quarter results, pricing power and improving margins were the focus of analyst reports in the wake of Netflix’s first-quarter earnings. The shares slipped 0.6 percent at 12:24 p.m. in New York after earlier rising as much as 2.6 percent. The market’s reaction was vastly improved after the report initially sparked a 7 percent plunge after hours on Tuesday.

Here’s what Wall Street is saying:

Morgan Stanley, Benjamin Swinburne

Netflix’s results showed “pricing power on display” with record global paid net adds of 9.6 million in the first quarter, “well ahead of our expectations and guidance.” The forecast for second-quarter U.S. net additions was “modestly below” Morgan Stanley’s estimate.

“Netflix believes there has been no impact from the higher price increases on gross additions, with the churn impact broadly in-line with previous U..S price increases that were of less magnitude.”

Morgan Stanley raised its estimate for 2019 global net additions globally to 30 million, up from 29 million, based on expectations that a strong content slate will help adoption in the second half of the year. In addition, Swinburne highlighted that margin expansion is “well on track” and he expects to see “a material reduction” in free cash flow burn in 2020.

Overweight, price target $450

RBC, Mark Mahaney

First-quarter results were “reasonably strong” and it is “still an acceleration year” for Netflix despite second-quarter subscriber targets coming in below estimates.

Management is confident in its recent U.S. pricing increase and expects a strong content slate in the second half of the year will accelerate subscriber growth. Netflix “does not expect Disney and Apple’s offerings to materially impact growth.”

Reiterated outperform rating and $480 price target, saying “Long-Term Buy thesis FULLY intact”

Barclays, Kannan Venkateshwar

While the second-quarter subscriber miss validated worries about domestic growth heading into the results, the “implicit increase in churn” is actually lower than when Netflix increased prices in 2016, normalized for the size of the increase, penetration rates and absolute price.

“This points to the fact that underlying U.S. business trends continue to improve despite the headline. This impact should be further muted in 2H’19 given the new seasons of some of the most popular shows and movies.”

Overweight, price target $375

Goldman Sachs, Heath Terry

“With each of the last three quarters outperforming the best-fit-line for the predictive ability of cash content spend to forward subscriber growth, we think there could be considerable upside to implied forward net adds growth as Netflix’s accelerated 2018 investment and continued 2019 investments pay off.”

Netflix remains buy-rated and on Goldman’s conviction list; price target raised to $460 from $450

What Bloomberg Intelligence says

“Despite a solid 1Q, Netflix’s 2Q subscriber guidance may cause concern on elevated churn and the absence of big-ticket series. Still the investment thesis is intact.”-- Geetha Ranganathan, senior media analyst-- Click here for the research

(Updates shares in first and second paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected the rating at Barclays.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Catherine Larkin in Chicago at clarkin4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Courtney Dentch at cdentch1@bloomberg.net, Will Daley

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