Netflix Inc. reported a “beautiful quarter” in January that pushed its market cap past $100 billion for the first time, but that success thrust subscriber-growth expectations even higher for the quarter Netflix will report after the bell on Monday.
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The streaming giant handily beat analyst expectations for subscriber growth in the fourth quarter, adding more than eight million users compared with expectations of 6 million, according to FactSet. Netflix NFLX, +0.78% stock has continued to demolish records since, setting new highs in dozens of sessions in February, March and April.
In the first quarter, analysts model the company adding 5 million new international subscribers and 1.5 million U.S. subscribers, according to FactSet, which would add up to more than Netflix’s guidance of 6.35 million overall additions. In the same period last year, Netflix added 3.5 million international subscribers and 1.4 million U.S. members.; before Netflix’s blowout fourth quarter and first-quarter forecast, analysts were expecting fewer than 5 million new subscribers.
While analysts have high hopes for quarterly subscriber additions, the first quarter is typically slower for Netflix, says Scott Freeze of chief investment officer of Sabretooth Financial, adding that nothing has happened during the quarter that makes his team believe the company is having specific issues. Sabretooth’s largest stock holding is Netflix, at about 10% of the company’s portfolio.
“The real crux is international subscriber growth for us when you’re trading at such a rich valuation from a revenue to price standpoint,” Freeze said. “From our standpoint, it’s still undervalued.”
Freeze and his team will be looking out for any guidance the company’s executives offer on international subscriptions, especially since it was slowing down on the content creation side and is not showing its programming at the Cannes Film Festival this year.
Deutche Bank released some details about its quarterly Netflix traffic report early Friday. In a note to clients analyst Bryan Kraft wrote that Netflix’s current guidance of 6.4 million new members is “conservative by up to one million subscribers world-wide.”
In a note to clients this week, Cowen & Co. analyst John Blackledge pointed to the weaker-than-expected Olympic TV ratings as potentially helping, or at least not hurting, subscriber growth. Blackledge rates Netflix a buy with a $325 price target.
What to expect
Earnings: Analysts on average model Netflix earnings of 63 cents a share and the company has issued guidance for the same per-share figure, according to FactSet. Contributors to Estimize, which crowdsources estimates from analysts, fund managers and academics, predict earnings of 65 cents a share, on average.
Revenue: In the first quarter, analysts polled by FactSet expect sales of $3.69 billion, which will be split nearly evenly between U.S. streaming of $1.8 billion and international streaming of $1.77 billion; analysts predict DVD-by-mail revenue of $99 million. Estimize contributors forecast revenue of $3.69 billion.
Stock movement: As the broad market has had a choppy year with the benchmark S&P 500 index SPX, -0.29% dropping nearly 1%, Netflix stock has been on a rampage in gaining 61%.
Of the 48 analysts that cover Netflix, 27 rate the company the equivalent of a buy, 17 are neutral, and four have a sell rating. The average price target is $295.21, representing downside of 5.3% from Friday’s closing price of $311.64.
What to look for
Netflix recently made a $300 million bid for an outdoor media company in Los Angeles, Regency Outdoor Advertising, Reuters reported. If the bid succeeds, it would be the largest-to-date acquisition for the streaming company.
“Our best guess is this to promote original series in an entertainment-centric market,” wrote Raymond James analyst Justin Patterson in a note to clients this week, suggesting it’s worth parsing the earnings report for a look at the streaming giant’s marketing efforts. Patterson rates the stock the equivalent of a buy with a target price of $330.
Patterson says another thing to watch for is the company pushing its “House of Cards” series to the fall, which will coincide with the World Cup. Doing so may impact its subscriber growth in the future, which would be reflected in the executives’ guidance. But, the company didn’t take a hit during the 2014 World Cup and this year has the added benefit of being in more markets and has more local original shows.
While Netflix doesn’t conduct an earnings call with analysts, opting to instead broadcast an “interview” with a single analyst who asks questions, Stifel analyst Scott Devitt wrote in a note to clients this week there are still things investors should watch for.
Chief among them is an update on Netflix’s free cash flow and its margin outlook through 2018, though Devitt pointed out that the company did not update its 2017 outlook during the call in the same period last year. Devitt, who has a hold on Netflix with a $325 price target, also wrote that investors should pay close attention to the company’s deals with telecom and entertainment companies, as well as Netflix’s India and Brazil performance.