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Snap Stock’s Risks Limit Its Near-Term Upside

Luke Lango

When photo-sharing company Snap (NYSE:SNAP) went public in early 2017, there was plenty of excitement on Wall Street about the future of the company. The public offering was priced at $17, and SNAP stock opened at $24. That equated to a $30 billion-plus valuation, which put Snap in the same range as Marriott (NYSE:MAR) and Target (NYSE:TGT), and made it about three times as valuable as its social media peer, Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), at the time.

Since then, the enthusiasm about SNAP stock has faded, with Snapchat stock falling below $7. The market cap of SNAP stock is below $9 billion. Meanwhile, Marriott and Target feature $40 billion-plus market caps, and Twitter has roared to a $25 billion valuation.

In other words, SNAP stock has gone from red-hot to ice-cold. Unfortunately, SNAP’s outlook isn’t too rosy, either.

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The reality of SNAP stock is that it’s a bet on what could be in five years, not what is today. There is a pathway for this stock to double or even triple over the next several years. But that big upside won’t be realized anytime soon, since its growth is slowing and its risks are mounting.

SNAP Stock Has Some Long-Term Positive Catalysts

Not everything about SNAP stock is doom and gloom.

The platform has roughly 200 million daily active users who are deeply committed to the website and love using it to keep up with friends and check the news in a Stories format. Meanwhile, 60% of those 200 million users (or about 120 million users) use Snapchat to send photos every day. So Snapchat is, for most intents and purposes, morphing into a modern-day camera. And the website’s average daily usage is over 30 minutes per day.

Broadly speaking, then, Snapchat is a digital platform that nearly 200 million consumers are largely addicted to. That in itself is pretty valuable. Is it worth $8 billion? Perhaps. Assuming a social media standard monthly-to-daily user conversion rate of 67%, Twitter has about the same number of daily active users as SNAP, and Twitter is worth roughly three times as much as Snapchat stock.

Moreover, Snap hasn’t even figured out its Android app yet. An overwhelming majority of Snap’s users use Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS, but an overwhelming majority of smartphone users outside the United States use Android. Thus, by not having a great Android app, Snap is significantly limiting its global reach.

Eventually, SNAP will figure its Android app out. When it does, its user growth COULD surge, boosted by robust international adoption. Also, Snap’s monetization rates are anemic versus the digital ad monetization rates of its peers. Presumably, Snap’s monetization rates will also improve dramatically over time, so its revenue has a great deal of room to rise.

Overall, there are still a lot of things to like about SNAP stock over the long-term. Thus, in five years, SNAP could be an insanely valuable company with a Twitter-esque valuation of $20 billion or more.

But Snapchat Stock Has Glaring Near-Term Negatives

While SNAP stock could march its way to a $20 billion-plus valuation in roughly four or five years, SNAP won’t rally anytime soon.

A lot has to happen to bridge the gap between where SNAP is today and where it needs to be in four or five years to warrant a $20 billion-plus valuation. Snap needs to stop losing users, build out its Android app, and gain users in an international market already dominated by Facebook’s (NASDAQ:FB) Instagram and WhatsApp. SNAP also needs to prove that its ads can be monetized as effectively as Facebook by dramatically improving its monetization rates. Furthermore, Snap needs to cut its data hosting costs in order to raise its gross margins, and it can only do that after the company launches its own data centers.

That is too much speculation and not enough tangibility. Worse yet, given the continued user gains of Instagram and Snap’s struggles, all that speculation about the strong international user growth and robust monetization improvements that SNAP could generate may be foolishly optimistic.

As a result, SNAP stock today will trade more on what is than what could be. Unfortunately, Smapchat stock today isn’t all that attractive. It’s a money-losing operation with low gross margins, slowing revenue growth, and a declining user base Nothing about that is attractive, and until something in its outlook changes, SNAP will struggle.

The Bottom Line on SNAP Stock

Snapchat stock could easily double or triple over the next few years under the right circumstances. But that level of bullishness is becoming increasingly speculative and less tangible as Snap’s growth slows and its competition picks up.

As a result, SNAP stock won’t rebound any time soon. Although Snapchat stock could legitimately rise meaningfully over the long-term, the owners of Snapchat stock won’t realize any upside just yet.

As of this writing, Luke Lango was long Apple and Facebook. 

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