GoPro (GPRO 1.45%) shareholders rang in the New Year with one question in mind: Will GoPro stock rebound in the year ahead? If you purchased 100 shares of GoPro in 2014 at its initial public offering price of $24, that $2,400 investment would be worth just $1,600 today. The action-camera maker's stock has plummeted more than 72% in the past year, leaving even GoPro's most loyal fans scratching their heads.
The company now hopes ongoing investments in new product categories such as virtual reality and drones will help it recover some of its former glory. But can investors truly bank on that in the New Year? Here are three predictions for GoPro stock in 2016.
GoPro will exceed Wall Street's low expectations in Q4
JPMorgan sees more than a 140% gain in the cards for GoPro's stock price this year. An analyst at the company kicked off the new tear by confirming its confidence that shares of GoPro will hit $45 apiece. That would mark significant upside from where the stock currently trades, at around $15.
While this is encouraging, the stock is likely to have a more modest move in the quarters ahead as investors wait to see how GoPro's newer products resonate with consumers. Nevertheless, Wall Street's low expectations for the company's fourth quarter could spark a modest rebound in the stock over the near term.
Analysts lowered their guidance and now expect GoPro to report a fourth-quarter profit of $0.34, down from earnings of $0.99 a year ago. The Street also expects revenue to come in sharply lower at around $511 million in the period. That would mean a 19% decline in sales growth over the prior year. I believe these low expectations put GoPro into a position to surprise investors to the upside when it reports earnings next month.
Virtual reality cameras won't materially boost revenue in 2016
GoPro's 16-camera rig for shooting virtual reality and 360-degree video footage, known as Odyssey, is now available to select professionals that have cash to spare. However, don't expect GoPro's new VR device to materially boost revenue growth for the company this year. After all, this isn't yet a consumer device with mass appeal, but rather a sophisticated piece of equipment with a base cost of $15,000. It's worth noting that GoPro will only release a "limited-quantity" of its Odyssey rigs this year.
GoPro's Odyssey Limited Access Program or LAP, now welcomes professional video producers to apply for and purchase the costly device. However, initial deliveries of the product aren't expected until later in the year. On top of this, buying the camera isn't enough to create beautiful immersive 3D content. Users must also utilize Alphabet's (GOOG -0.04%) (GOOGL -0.15%) virtual reality platform Jump in order to actually process and edit the raw footage into content that can then be distributed through Google's YouTube.
Virtual reality, albeit a promising long-term growth prospect for GoPro, isn't yet a consumer-friendly process. For GoPro, targeting the professional community and teaming up with Google is a start. However, the company will eventually need to create more affordable VR hardware if it hopes to take its 3D ambitions mainstream.
GoPro will increase ad spending
Investors can expect GoPro to boost its marketing budget in 2016. The company's CEO, Nick Woodman, admitted they "underfunded marketing" efforts in quarters past and vowed to rectify the issue by ramping up ad spending.
This is important because it reinforces the notion that GoPro is no longer benefiting from the early momentum it enjoyed in 2014 around the time of its initial public offering. The company has traditionally put emphasis on its GoPro Network as a way of drumming up excitement and demand for its products. However, the action-camera maker now says it needs to invest in additional global advertising campaigns such as television ads in order to reboot demand.
Woodman didn't specify how much overall spending would increase. However, the company said it now expects fourth-quarter operating expenses of between $160 million and $170 million -- driven by increased marketing and R&D investments.
Research and development investments should still make up the bulk of GoPro's spending in 2016. R&D costs climbed 54% year over year in the latest quarter. However, with the launch of new product categories such as the quadcopter and Odyssey, advertising and marketing costs will also account for a significant piece of the pie in 2016.
Investors with a three- to five-year time horizon shouldn't be worried. GoPro's longer-term growth prospects remain intact, and the company is aggressively working to fix the more immediate challenges at hand. That said, it will likely take time for GoPro to fully recover. For that reason, shareholders should have reasonable expectations for the stock in 2016.