One of the first megacap growth stocks to report earnings every quarter, Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) has already put a date to its first-quarter financial results -- the streaming-TV giant will report those results on April 16 after market close. Given the stock's sharp rebound from lows below $250 last December to around $360 at the time of this writing, the pressure is on for Netflix to deliver some good numbers.
In Netflix's first quarter, investors will be looking for the company to kick off the year with strong top-line growth, driven by member additions and price increases. Here's an overview of the key areas to watch.
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Netflix's recent top-line momentum has been impressive. Fourth-quarter revenue surged 27% year over year to $4.5 billion. This was driven by a 33% year-over-year increase in paid memberships and a 3% higher average subscription price. Revenue growth would have been even more pronounced, but foreign exchange headwinds weighed on Netflix's reported growth. For instance, the company's fourth-quarter average subscription price was actually up 6% year over year in constant currency.
Netflix expects foreign exchange headwinds to persist in Q1, with management guiding for 21% year-over-year revenue growth, or 27% growth in constant currency.
Management expects the company's price increase in the U.S. in January to help lift the company's average subscription price during the quarter. But it will take both Q1 and Q2 for the price increases to be totally phased in, management noted.
Netflix's operating margin declined from 7.5% in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 5.2% in the fourth quarter of 2018, due to a high number of titles launching during the quarter. But a less concentrated release schedule in Q1 should allow Netflix's operating margin to widen sequentially. Management guided for a first-quarter operating margin of 8.9%.
Investors should also look to see if management maintains its full-year outlook for its operating margin, as one of the reasons Netflix stock trades at a premium valuation is management's expectation for its profitability metric to improve over time.
"Our multi-year plan is to keep significantly growing our content while increasing our revenue faster to expand our operating margins," said management in the company's fourth-quarter shareholder letter. Specifically, management forecast its 2019 full-year operating margin to be 13%, up from 10% in 2018.
Paid member additions
Finally, investors should check on growth in paid members -- the heartbeat of Netflix's business model. The company added a record 8.8 million paid members in Q4, easily beating the guidance management provided for 7.6 million paid net adds during the period.
For Netflix's first quarter of 2019, management expects paid net member additions of 8.9 million.
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