Netflix Bulls Help Stock Mitigate Losses to Close Down 5% After Q2 Sub Miss

Some investors saw the steep drop in Netflix shares — after the company missed subscriber-growth targets by more than 1 million for the second quarter of 2018 — as a buying opportunity.

The streamer’s shares regained some of their mojo Tuesday, closing down 5.2% for the day to $379.48 per share. That came after Netflix shares plunged more than 14% in after-hours trading Monday.

Netflix’s stock drop had pushed its market capitalization below that of Disney, but by the end of the day Netflix shares had recovered enough to put its market cap ($165 billion) once again just above the Mouse House’s ($164 billion).

Many Wall Street analysts remained upbeat on the stock. “We recommend investors take advantage of the pullback in shares, as expectations will now be reset lower and the momentum behind the business and its profitability remains healthy and clear,” Morgan Stanley’s Benjamin Swinburne wrote in a note Tuesday.

Netflix’s shortfall of 1 million subs in Q2 represented less than 1% of the 130 million global customer base at the end of the period, Swinburne noted. And, he added, Netflix’s streaming-customer growth remains “large and accelerating.” Over the last 12 months, Netflix’s global net adds were 26 million (nearly 3 million higher than the company’s guidance), and up compared to 21 million in the 12 months prior.

Meanwhile, BMO Capital Markets’ Dan Salmon upgraded Netflix to “outperform” (from “market perform”) after the Q2 earnings report. He cited expected growth in India and Japan into 2019 and Netflix’s ability to “to continue to transition to more originals from licensed studio content well,” citing the end of Disney’s movie-output deal with Netflix in 2019, as well small but steady growth of consumer-product licensing revenue.

As Netflix’s library of originals grows, Salmon sees an opportunity for the company to develop a high-margin product licensing business, especially for films and children’s shows. He also cited content from comic-book publisher Millarworld as a potential catalyst. “We believe NFLX has laid the groundwork for being a more diversified company from a revenue perspective,” he wrote.

UBS analyst Eric Sheridan lowered his price target on Netflix, from $425 to to $360 per share, maintaining a “neutral” rating.

“Longer term, we still see NFLX as a global leader in streaming media and that NFLX mgmt’s focus on expanding the competitive moat via a mix of content spend, brand/content awareness (through mkting spend) and subscriber growth all continue to point to sustained topline growth & forward margin expansion,” Sheridan wrote in a research note.

For the second quarter of 2018, the company reported 670,000 streaming net adds domestically and 4.47 million internationally, or 5.15 million total. Wall Street analysts had expected 1.23 million net adds in the U.S. and 5.11 million overseas for the period (6.34 million total).

Netflix execs said they weren’t sure why subscriber growth in Q2 was lighter than they forecast. “We’ve seen this movie of Q2 [subscriber net adds] shortfall before, about two years ago in 2016 — and we never did find the explanation to that, other than there’s some lumpiness in the business,” CEO Reed Hastings said on the company’s post-earnings interview.

The lower-than-expected subscriber growth may have been the result of “no new breakout original hits this quarter,” or an indication that Netflix’s business is subject to a summer seasonality, Swinburne speculated. It might also have been the case that “after multiple quarters of outperformance, some upward bias crept into the internal budget Netflix uses as guidance to investors,” he added.

Netflix’s Q2 revenue and profit growth were strong and roughly in line with analyst expectations. Netflix posted quarterly revenue of $3.91 billion, up 40% year over year, and earnings per share of 85 cents (versus 15 cents in the year-ago quarter). Wall Street consensus Q2 2018 estimates were for $3.94 billion in revenue and EPS of 79 cents.

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