Following another volatile day on Wall Street, investors looking for a distraction can look ahead to earnings season. Fortunately, it's nearly upon us.
One of the first companies to report earnings every quarter is Netflix (NFLX 1.56%) -- and the streaming-TV company has already set a date for its upcoming update. Netflix will report its first-quarter financial results after the market closes on April 20.
Ahead of Netflix's first-quarter update, here's a preview of what to expect from Netflix, followed by a look at the stock to see if it's attractive today.
Expect accelerated top-line growth
By almost every measure, 2020 was an exceptional year for Netflix. The company raked in $25 billion of revenue, up from about $20 billion in the prior year. Over the same time period, operating income rose from approximately $2.6 billion to $4.6 billion.
But 2021 looks like it's going to be a great year for the company, too -- at least based on the outlook management provided in Netflix's fourth-quarter shareholder letter. Netflix said it expects revenue in Q1 alone to be $7.1 billion. Not only would this mark a record well ahead of any other quarter for the company, but it also translates to 23.6% year-over-year growth -- an acceleration from the 21.5% top-line growth Netflix saw in its fourth quarter of 2020.
Importantly, Netflix expects its strong top-line momentum to lead to impressive operating leverage and important cash flow achievements in 2021.
"For FY21, we're now targeting a 20% operating margin, up 2 percentage points from 2020 and higher than our previous 19% forecast, due to a more favorable revenue outlook," Netflix management said in the company's fourth-quarter update.
In addition, the company said it believes that it will no longer need to raise external financing, as it expects its free cash flow to finally be around breakeven levels. Impressively, it expects to achieve this even as it continues to invest aggressively in content.
Is this a good time to buy Netflix stock?
Despite the company's strong recent performance and management's promising outlook for 2021, shares of the streaming-TV company have declined sharply recently. The stock is down more 7% since mid-February as a broader-market sell-off of growth stocks seems to have weighed on Netflix shares.
This pullback ahead of Netflix's earnings report arguably presents investors who are willing to hold shares a good buying opportunity. While there's no guarantee any stock works out, Netflix has regularly demonstrated customer loyalty, pricing power, and improving financial performance. With so many metrics moving in positive directions for Netflix, the stock's recent decline could be a good buying opportunity for opportunistic investors.
Of course, this doesn't mean shares won't decline when Netflix reports earnings. As recent volatility in the market has reminded us, it's arguably impossible to gauge how a stock will fare in the near term. Over the long haul, however, Netflix shareholders have a good chance of being rewarded nicely.