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Since bottoming out in early April, shares of online talent search company Upwork (UPWK) have been on a relentless forward charge. Over the past 3 months, the stock has added a hefty 90% of muscle.
Come to think of it, Upwork’s platform is one particularly suited to these uncertain times. With jobs getting slashed in every sector, Upwork’s gig economy model should be a defensive play in a cloudy macro climate.
However, for BTIG analyst Marvin Fong, Upwork’s potential is "underappreciated.” Fong argues a “large TAM (total addressable market) and secular tailwinds will enable Upwork to grow revenue in excess of 15% over the next 5 years.”
A recent 2020 Future Workforce Report (sponsored by Upwork) provides some clarity on the current state of the freelance industry. Among roughly 500 HR managers, 73% have indicated, that due to COVID-19 they will keep on, or intend to, hire freelancers. While the figure would imply that more than 25% of managers are cutting back on the hiring of independent talent, it stands up well against other trends. During the pandemic, 45% of those polled said they have frozen the hiring of new full-time personnel, while 39% have conducted layoffs. Furthermore, as a direct result of the pandemic, 47% said they plan on ramping up the use of freelancers.
According to Fong, Upwork’s position as the world's largest freelancing matching platform, makes it ideally suited to benefit from the current paradigm.
Fong said, “All in, despite recent price appreciation, we believe UPWK shares remain attractively valued trading at 6.1x our FY21 gross profit estimate. With the sector overall seeing strong performance, our updated regression analysis suggests the average e-commerce stock growing 15% (our 5-year projection for UPWK ) should trade at 6.8x gross profit. We would argue that UPWK is more attractively positioned than most companies given its leading market share and minuscule penetration rate relative to a TAM we estimate at $322B.”
Accordingly, the BTIG analyst rates Upwork shares a Buy, along with a $16 price target. The implication for investors? Potential upside of 6%. (To watch Fong’s track record, click here)
Looking at the consensus breakdown, Upwork’s 3 Buys and 1 Hold coalesce to a Strong Buy consensus rating. However, with an average price target of $13.25, the analysts anticipate shares dropping by 8% over the coming months. (See Upwork stock analysis on TipRanks)
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