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Is GoPro a Buy?

By Chris Neiger - Updated Dec 9, 2018 at 9:15AM

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There isn't much to love about this company right now.

GoPro (GPRO -2.27%) was once a tech darling of Wall Street. The company went public in mid-2014, and its share price quickly began climbing that year, more than doubling by the end of the year. But toward the close of 2015, the party had already started to end for GoPro investors. More recently, GoPro's shares have fallen about 30% year to date, and that slide has left the company's shares trading at some of their lowest levels in the company's history.

With GoPro's shares trading lower, some investors may be wondering if now is a good time to bet on a potential turnaround for the company. The problem is that there isn't much GoPro is doing that would warrant any long-term optimism in the company right now.

Man using a calculator with charts in front of him on a desk.

Image source: Getty Images.

A hard sell

GoPro's had a difficult time getting consumers to buy its cameras or upgrade to new ones. In the company's fourth quarter 2017, reported back in January, revenue plummeted 38% year over year, which was the result, in part, of the company's failure to grab consumers' attention with its Karma drone.

GoPro's quarterly results have improved since then, but not by much. Sales in the first quarter of 2018 fell by 7% and slipped another 5% in the second quarter. And in the third quarter, which was reported at the beginning of November, GoPro's revenue fell 13% year over year. GoPro also reported a net loss of $27 million in the third quarter, compared to earnings of $14.6 million in the third quarter of 2017.

Declining revenue quarter after quarter is never a good sign, but what's even more of a red flag is that the company's management cut its revenue forecast for the current quarter. That's problematic because it means the company is scaling back its device sales expectations over the holiday quarter, which is a time when people are typically spending more money on items they normally wouldn't.

The fact is that GoPro's camera sales have continued to decline over the past couple of years. Sales of GoPro cameras fell by 8.5% in fiscal 2017 to 4.3 million, down from 4.7 million in fiscal 2016. That may not seem like that big of a drop until you compare it to the company's camera sales of 6.5 million in 2016.

Cheap doesn't mean it's a bargain

It's tempting to look at GoPro's very low price-to-sales ratio of less than 1 and think that that the company's shares are a good value right now. But over the past two years, there's been little evidence to show that GoPro can turn its slowing camera sales around or enter new markets to create new revenue streams.

The growth of smartphones has put great cameras in the pockets of millions of people and has likely caused many to wonder why they need one of GoPro's HERO cameras at all. Of course, there's a small market for action cameras, but at it this point, it appears to be tapped out, or at least coming close to it. GoPro hasn't figured out a strategy to convince people to upgrade their cameras.

GoPro has, to its credit, tried to move toward generating recurring revenue from its customers through its GoPro Plus subscription for $5 per month, which offers automatic and unlimited image uploads to the cloud and replaces a user's camera if it gets damaged. GoPro currently has 185,000 paying subscribers, and GoPro CEO Nicholas Woodman said on the most recent earnings call that:

We will continue to test new pricing tiers and benefits to accelerate growth, as we believe Plus represents a meaningful opportunity to enhance user loyalty, while growing a margin accretive recurring revenue stream.

The problem is that without a steady increase in device sales from year to year, there won't be enough GoPro camera owners to generate significant subscription revenue for the company.

For all of these reasons, GoPro isn't a compelling investment at this point. The company desperately needs its device sales to turn around, but it's beginning to look like the company has maxed out most of its opportunities in the action-camera market.

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