Things keep getting worse for Snap Inc. (NYSE:SNAP) investors. Snapchat's parent company is within pennies of another all-time low, as October has offered more tricks than treats for investors. Snap's reporting its third-quarter results shortly after Thursday's market close, and everyone seems to be bracing for more pain at the other side of the report.
Stifel analyst John Egbert became the latest analyst this month to slash his price target on the out-of-favor social camera app developer, lowering his price goal from $15 to $9 on Wednesday morning. A lot of Wall Street pros have been doing that this month, a troublesome sign as analysts try to step up their public pessimism ahead of this afternoon's earnings release and subsequent conference call.
There's no point in arguing that everybody has it wrong, and that Snap is going to rock your socks off with a monster quarter. Snap's a mess. It was struggling to keep up with Instagram last year, and things have only gotten worse this year following an unpopular app update. However, there's always the possibility that the bearish takes have overshot Snap's gradual fade into oblivion. Let's go over a few of the silver linings here, because -- heck -- somebody has to at this point.
1. There's upside even to the bearish moves
Stifel's Egbert call to lower his price target to $9 seems painful, but have you seen where the stock is now? Snap at $9 would be 37% higher than it was at Wednesday's close. A bull would gladly take that.
Three other analysts have lowered their price goals on the stock this week.
- Stephen Ju at Credit Suisse went from $15 to $12, and he's bullish.
- Youssef Squali at SunTrust is going from $13 to $8, and he's neutral.
- John Blackledge at Cowen went from $8 to $6, and he's naturally bearish.
Outside of Blackledge with his price target now at $6, every update this week is parking above where the stock is now. Things are rough, but hope springs eternal even among the Wall Street pros that supposedly hate this company.
2. Snap is still growing
The bleak stock chart and headlines of defecting celebrities and mainstream users would have you believe that Snap's revenue is falling sharply, but that's not the case at all. The second quarter was the first period of a sequential decline in usage -- as daily active users slipped from 191 million in the first quarter to 188 million in the second -- but revenue still rose sharply both year over year (of course) and sequentially.
Thursday's report that has retail investors running scared is still expected to check in with 36% year-over-year growth. The platform may be going through some growing -- or is that now shrinking -- pains, but Snap is doing a better job of milking more revenue out of the folks sticking around. Average revenue per user has risen 34% over the past year. We'll see how that's holding up in the third quarter.
3. History doesn't always repeat
The biggest reason to steer clear of Snap heading into an earnings report is that the stock has crushed investors almost every single time. It's not pretty. The stock has fallen during earnings week in all but one of its first six quarters as a public company.
- Q1 2017 -- Down 17%
- Q2 2017 -- Down 10%
- Q3 2017 -- Down 18%
- Q4 2017 -- Up 37%
- Q1 2018 -- Down 24%
- Q2 2018 -- Down 3%
The odds suggest that this will be another rough week. You have a die roll's chance of succeeding if you're long. Let's approach the bleak history with a different lens, the way any Snapchat-savvy user would in dolling up a snapshot. The stock is already trading lower than it was ahead of any of its previous reports, so a lot of the pessimism is already baked into the stock price. Last time out was the first time the stock didn't have a double-digit percentage move, and the average return through the last three reports is actually a gain.
There have been some positive news nuggets in recent days. Snap has brought in a couple of new executives with impressive pedigrees. It's been a force in getting young 'uns registered to vote, something that should keep political ad spending strong this quarter. There was even an upgrade lost in the price target-slashing flurry this week, as OTR Global boosted its rating from mixed to positive, encouraged by what it expects to be modest gains in social media budget share for the third quarter. Sometimes it's easy to believe -- just because everyone else does not.