Snapchat's parent company may have been a punchline for financial journos last year, but Snap (NYSE: SNAP) is turning into the comeback kid of 2019. Snap stock has now more than doubled this year, hitting that juicy milestone on Thursday afternoon after a welcome analyst upgrade.
Rich Greenfield at BTIG boosted his rating on Snap stock from neutral to buy on Thursday. He feels that advertiser bids to get their marketing missives on Snapchat have started to pick up in recent months. Snapchat itself has had some challenges in growing its audience since an unpopular update to its app more than a year ago, but it remains a compelling place for advertisers to reach millennials that eschew traditional media outlets. His price target of $15 suggests that there's plenty of upside beyond this young year's hot start.
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Snapping into place
Greenfield isn't the only Wall Street pro with a rosy or rosier perspective on Snap these days. Consumer Edge initiated coverage of the stock with an overweight rating earlier this week. Brent Thill also raised his target on the stock from $9 to $11 after meeting with Snap's management. He's still sticking to his hold rating on the shares, but moving his marker to match the stock's recent surge instead of downgrading Snap on valuation is encouraging. Thill feels that Snap is in the early stage of a recovery, but he's impressed by the steps it's taking to woo partners, monetize the platform, and win back user engagement.
Snapchat continues to draw a crowd. Growth appears to have stalled -- its 186 million active users during the fourth quarter are essentially flat with the 187 million it was servicing a year earlier -- but there are things far worse than merely marching in place. Snap's improving monetization skills still resulted in a better-than-expected 36% spike in revenue, fueled entirely by a 37% surge in average revenue per user.
Snap remains far from perfect. It's still losing a lot of money, and there's a lot riding on the Android app redesign it expects to roll out by the end of this year. We saw what happened last time it decide to dramatically tweak its platform -- it wasn't pretty -- but this time a smarter Snapchat team gets a shot to correct the mistake it made nearly two years earlier.
Snap stock is still a broken IPO. It will have to more than triple this year to take out its debutante price of $17. However, with momentum on its side -- for a change -- it's hard to bet against Snapchat's parent company now.
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