In a research note, published on Wednesday and reported on by Barron’s, analysts at MoffettNathanson described Netflix as the “single most frustrating stock to cover”, adding that the company’s share price doesn’t make sense and is almost impossible to value.
The analysts noted that investors tend to focus all their attention on subscriber numbers, an area where Netflix has been excelling. However, when they applied four different valuation metrics to the stock, they discovered varying potential outcomes, each of which mainly pointed toward the shares being overvalued.
The problem is that the analysts can’t see a reason for its shareholders to sell, particularly given that Netflix is doing everything that investors have asked it to do.
“While we expect Netflix to continue to post strong subscriber growth…we still can’t justify the stock price under any scenario,” they wrote. “We are left with the continued displeasure of believing that the stock is overvalued by not seeing any legitimate fundamental reason for investors to sell.”
The analysts described this conundrum as “proof that all great growth stocks need two things: a narrative and investors that believe that narrative,” according to Advanced-Television. However, they also warned that this type of mentality often leads investors to focus on the positives and overlook risks, citing Tesla Inc. (TSLA) as an example.
In response to their findings, MoffettNathanson opted to sit on the fence, reiterating an “unsatisfying” neutral rating on the stock. In the note, they also raised their price target by $40 to $213 — about 26% below current levels.
The analysts settled on a $213 price target after taking into account the results of various different valuation approaches. (See also: Netflix Sell-Off Could Signal Deep Correction.)
A discounted cash flow valuation, which predicts the cash the business might generate over time, comes up short even with bullish subscriber growth estimates, they concluded, leading to a price target of $209. Meanwhile, a sum-of-the-parts valuation, which seeks to calculate the value of Netflix’s domestic, overseas and DVD businesses combined and then remove debt, produced an even more bearish projection of just $148.
Finally, the analysts concluded that a price-to-sales valuation, calculated by dividing the company's market cap by the revenue it generated in the most recent year, requires a substantial premium to historical multiples to reach $279, a figure more or less in line with the current share price.