Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) is following up Tuesday's all-time highs with new records on Wednesday. Good things happen when you blow the market away with better-than-expected financial results, and Netflix blasting through the $100 billion market-cap ceiling this week is all you need to know about how the market is taking the dot-com darling's latest numbers.
Headlines are gushing over the record 8.33 million subscribers the company gained during the fourth quarter, but the real gem in Netflix's report is its guidance for the current quarter. The first quarter is shaping up to be a pretty special time for the top dog in premium streaming. Let's dive into the reasons that the best could be yet to come for Netflix.
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1. Accelerating revenue growth is a beautiful thing
Netflix is targeting $3.686 billion in revenue for the first quarter, 39.8% ahead of where it landed a year earlier. After three quarters of decelerating top-line year-over-year growth, we're now bracing for back-to-back quarters of accelerating revenue gains.
It's always impressive when a large company puts the pedal to the metal, and Netflix is achieving this with the potent combination of heady subscriber growth and surprisingly well-received monthly price hikes. However, the really impressive thing about Netflix telling investors that it will be growing its business at a nearly 40% clip is that you have to go all the way back to the fourth quarter of 2011 to find the last time it was growing faster.
2. Rising above the floodgates of expenditures
As impressive as Netflix's top-line forecast seems, the $0.63-per-share profit that it's forecasting for the first quarter is even more noteworthy. Netflix sees net income soaring 58%, outpacing its top-line growth. Analysts were only holding out for $0.56 a share on less than $3.5 billion in revenue.
Netflix isn't cutting corners to jack up its profitability. It's boosting its marketing spend from $1.3 billion to $2 billion this year. It will spend a record $7.5 billion to $8 billion on content in 2018, along with investing $1.3 billion in research and development.
The party doesn't end here. Netflix sees its operating margin improving sharply for all of 2018 relative to the blowout year that just ended.
3. More subs than a sandwich shop
Let's close by considering the 6.35 million net streaming subscribers that Netflix expects to add this quarter. That's less than the record 8.33 million it just scored during the fourth quarter -- the kind of sequential deceleration that may lead some to think that we hit peak Netflix last quarter.
Rise above the thinning lot of naysayers: Landing 6.35 million these next three months will be pretty special. We saw seasonality a year earlier, as Netflix went from 7.05 million in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 4.95 million during the first quarter of 2017. Netflix's guidance suggests a softer landing this time around, and that's with the Winter Olympics next month likely icing up gross adds for more than two weeks.
Netflix is doing just fine. If you need more proof, keep in mind that three months ago Netflix was only forecasting 6.3 million net additions during the fourth quarter. We saw how that turned out. And the target's slightly higher this time around.
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