Better-than-expected subscriber growth and a historically low churn rate helped Netflix
Netflix closed out the period with 3.6 million subscribers -- a 61% improvement over the headcount at this time last year. But revenue grew by only 23% to $174.3 million, a disparity caused by the company's decision to knock down its monthly membership fee and introduce some lower-priced plans as a way to fend off Blockbuster
Cynics who figured that Netflix wouldn't be able to turn a profit in a price war were proved wrong: The company ended up earning $0.11 a share for the quarter. Yes, that's substantially lower than last year's showing, when margins were naturally fatter. Earnings would have come in at $0.15 a share, though, if not for a lawsuit settlement. Netflix also generated $7.5 million in free cash flow during the quarter.
Yes, charging patrons $4 a month less for its most popular rental plan stings, but the company is gaining ground in other ways. Its customer acquisition costs are down. Its subscriber retention rates are at record levels. Netflix now expects to close out 2005 with at least 4 million subscribers. Just a few months ago, it had projected a range between 3.85 million and 4.05 million members. Now it believes that it may close out the current quarter with as many as 4.2 million happy disc swappers.
The company also initiated its guidance for 2006 and things, are looking sharp on that front, too:
|Year end subscribers||At least 5.65 million|
|Revenue||At least $940 million|
|Pretax profits||$50 million to $60 million|
With 66 million shares outstanding at the moment, the company implies with this guidance that earnings before taxes next year will clock in at between $0.76 and $0.91 a share. It kind of makes you wonder what the market was thinking when it marked down Netflix shares to a mere 10 times that amount earlier this year.
Yes, Netflix has some challenges ahead. Apple Computer
However, you also have opportunities hanging out in the gray-matter waiting room. The company recently ramped up its advertising department to produce incremental revenue by marketing to its active audience. It also has the distribution center in place that can be used for other light media delivery services, such as video game rentals, CDs, and software. Even if Netflix shares cool off in the near term -- and that's perfectly natural, since the market-thumping Stock Advisor recommendation has more than tripled since bottoming out in the spring -- its prospects look bright. The movie fans keep coming, and they seem to be wild about a happy ending.
Along with Netflix, Amazon.com is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a Netflix subscriber -- and investor -- since 2002. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.