Here at The Motley Fool, we're as likely to poke fun at Wall Street analysts as we are to take their musings seriously. Nevertheless, their reports often affect share prices on an immediate basis, so we're keeping a close eye on 'em. We track 190 analyst firms in our CAPS system, where media phenomenon Jim Cramer currently ranks in the middle of the pack next to us common investors, just to give you a sense of scale.
What's up, Doc?
Yesterday, positive remarks from Goldman Sachs
The firm has a more miss than hit track record in the Internet Software and Services sector where Netflix makes its hay, getting just one out of five current picks right as tracked by CAPS. That's not a great start.
However, Netflix is a very recent addition to Goldman's pick portfolios. Coverage started less than three months ago, and the $200 per-share price target set back then with a "hold" rating was spot-on as of this morning.
Today, Goldman raised that estimate to $300 for a 50% upside, and Netflix is obviously a buy from that perspective.
So, what's new?
Well, the initial analysis pointed to a veritable horde of serious competitors spearheaded by Comcast
Three months of further analysis has led Chung to the conclusion that the competitive threat is overblown, though. Chung says the market for streaming video is large enough to support "multiple players," among which Netflix is bound to be a biggie. Moreover, the company has a big enough lead to make it difficult for new players to take the core audience away from Netflix.
Goldman sees Netflix developing international markets by partnering up with local Internet service providers. That would be a quick route into new markets and will leverage the partners' desire and ability to market the new Netflix offerings. I would add that the strategy would result in fewer angry service providers activating their defenses and becoming rivals, because they'll share common goals with Netflix. It's not exactly a novel idea, but it makes a lot of sense.
Does that make sense?
All told, Goldman's $300 target price for Netflix is on the high end of major analyst firms. Assuming a one-year time frame, it's hardly an impossible goal for a stock that has more than tripled over the last year. And if 30% of Netflix's shares are sold short now, imagine how many bear calls you'll hear before hitting that lofty target.
That said, there are no sure things in this market, and it'd be a rocky ride for sure. My crystal ball is in the shop for an oil change, so I can't even say for sure whether Goldman's target will be met within 12 months.
That doesn't worry me, though. I see Netflix as a core stock for any portfolio that's set up with a long-term investing horizon, competitive threats and all. Chung hints that Comcast might just buy Netflix if it can't be outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted -- and if Comcast doesn't, then some other deep-pocketed media giant might.
As a standalone company with limited resources and that's under constant media fire for its tendency to invest in growth at the expense of short-term earnings, Netflix is nevertheless an exciting growth story. The company is on track to become one of the largest subscription services in the world, if Chung's estimates of 60 million subscribers by 2015 (or the more modest 50 million target it replaced) is even in the right zip code. The profits will surely follow, and so will the share price.
I think Ms. Chung is looking at Netflix from all the right angles and will keep an eye out for more research notes from her desk in the future.
If you wouldn't dare to buy Netflix at these prices, you can take two less committed routes:
- Add Netflix to your Foolish watchlist, making sure that you won't miss a beat as the digital media story develops, and
- Make an "outperform" call on Netflix in CAPS. This stock plays a large part in my all-star CAPS ranking, and I'm sure it will help you too.
Neither move will cost you a penny, and both are likely to make you a more informed investor. Click here to get started on that watchlist!
Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Google and Netflix but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Google is a Motley Fool Inside Valuechoice. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple, Amazon.com, and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisorpicks. The Fool has written puts on Apple. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread position on Apple. The Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. 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. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.