Still believers, Wall Street analysts stand behind Netflix despite shortfall

Wall Street analysts are standing behind Netflix Inc., despite the company’s weaker-than-expected subscriber growth in the second quarter.

Most see the streaming company’s subscriber miss as simply growing pains, something to be expected as NetflixNFLX, +1.18% works to expand its reach and figures out the right balance of content spend and marketing.

“Our longer-term view of growth potential is unchanged,” analysts at KeyBanc Capital Markets, led by Andy Hargreaves, wrote in a Monday note after Netflix announced its earnings results. Although KeyBanc lowered its price target to $375 from $385 based on “a decline to our near-term estimates,” Hargreaves reiterated KeyBanc’s overweight rating, writing: “We continue to recommend owning Netflix.”

Read: Netflix stock slammed after earnings, as subscriber growth and revenue fall short

Netflix shares were down 12.6% in premarket trade Tuesday morning after the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company announced it added 5.15 million streaming users in the second quarter, a 17% drop from the 6.2 million estimate the company provided in April. The company added 4.47 million international subscribers and 670,000 domestic subscribers, missing its April estimates of 5.9 million and 1.2 million.

But several investment firms are seeing the misses and resulting pullback as a buying opportunity. Stifel analysts, led by Scott Devitt, upgraded their Netflix rating on Tuesday to buy from hold, “as we believe shares are again at an attractive point.”

“We view Netflix’s long-term outlook positively, given the upside case we believe exists for the company’s domestic and international opportunities,” Devitt wrote.

“While 2Q net adds and the 3Q outlook are disappointing, we do not believe they reflect a fundamental change in the Netflix story,” analysts at J.P. Morgan wrote in a note Tuesday morning, raising its price target to $415 from $385 and reiterating its overweight rating. “We believe the pullback will prove to be a compelling buying opportunity,” they added.

Piper Jaffray analysts, led by Michael Olson, maintained their overweight rating for Netflix and kept their $420 price target, saying in a Tuesday note that “the long-term potential is too great for us to suggest anything other than buying Netflix on today’s weakness.”

For more: Is Netflix stock falling down a mountain, or just tripping over a molehill?

Such misses have happened before with Netflix, wrote Olson, citing a second-quarter shortfall in 2016 and echoing what Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said on Monday during the company’s earnings interview. But that was followed by “a solid upside in the third quarter (and beyond)," he wrote, adding: “Netflix has faced hurdles before and this second-quarter report won’t be the last.”

GBH Insights maintained its highly attractive rating and $500 price target on Netflix. “While the knee jerk reaction will clearly be negative from the Street’s perspective, we would be buyers of Netflix on this weakness,” wrote Daniel Ives, the firm’s head of technology research, in a Monday note after Netflix announced its earnings results.

“We believe this is a speed bump rather than the start of a negative subscription trend for Netflix as the streaming market and content arms race continues to be a major tailwind for the company over the next 12 to 18 months,” Ives wrote.

Netflix shares have gained 108% in 2018, while the S&P 500 SPX, -0.10% has gained 4.7%.

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