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Why Pandora Media, Inc. Stock Popped Today

By Steve Symington - Feb 17, 2016 at 4:05PM

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The music streaming specialist climbed along with the broader market and an analyst upgrade.

What: Shares of Pandora Media (P) rose more than 10% Wednesday along with the broader market, and following a notable analyst upgrade.

So what: After a historically rough start to the year, the NASDAQ Composite Index is up 4.5% so far this week, including a 2% rise today as of this writing. Considering Pandora, for its part, is still down nearly 35% year to date -- including a more than 17% drop the day after its largely solid fourth-quarter report last week -- it's no surprise shares of the music streaming company are bouncing back with a vengeance today.

But we also can't ignore the uncertainty created by Pandora's aggressive plans to invest $345 million in 2016 alone toward scaling infrastructure and building new lines of business. For example, Pandora management believes that in just five years, it will be able to build a $1.3 billion subscription business "conservatively," based on converting 10% of its U.S. audience (which stood at 81.1 million listeners in Q4) as new product tiers are launched and adopted -- all while continuing to improve monetization of its core radio business.

As it turns out, that's exactly why analysts at FBR upgraded Pandora Media stock yesterday to "Outperform" from "Market Perform." In doing so, FBR also curiously maintained its previous per-share price target of $16 (a massive premium over today's price, at below $9 per share), noting Pandora's new five-year goal provides what they view as "a higher-conviction way to get there."

Now what: In the end, I tend to agree with FBR's positive stance on Pandora's ambitious plans, especially considering the new service could more than double Pandora's annual revenue from 2015 levels. But I'm also sure it won't be a smooth ride, as Pandora has already warned investors that rising royalty rates and its capital allocation choices in 2016 will leave the company temporarily operating on a negative adjusted EBTIDA basis. For shareholders willing to patiently endure the bumps along the way, however, and if Pandora's plans succeed, now could be a great time to pick up shares of Pandora Media.

Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Pandora Media. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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