Netflix reached a record high of $489.29 a share before slipping 0.1% to $479.01 Tuesday, after a Wall Street analyst said investors have underestimated its future potential financial performance.
In a research note, RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney raised his price target on Netflix from $530 to $600 per share, citing an updated analysis of Netflix's opportunity to rack up European subscribers and positive customer-satisfaction survey results in the U.S. and U.K.
"We continue to believe that Netflix has achieved a level of sustainable scale, growth, and profitability that isn't currently factored into its stock price," Mahaney wrote, reiterating the firm's "outperform" rating on Netflix. He noted that Netflix has the highest short interest and lowest "buy" rating ranking among large-cap Internet stocks.
Still, the analyst reiterated caveats on trends that could impinge growth. Netflix could see weaker-than-expected subscriber growth if churn levels increase or competitors steal share, Mahaney noted. And, among other things, he reiterated that tiered broadband pricing models of Internet service providers could thwart streaming usage.
Netflix also is concerned that its streaming-delivery costs could increase as broadband providers seek interconnection payments to guarantee high-quality video delivery. The company on Wednesday is participating in a symbolic Internet "slowdown" to urge the FCC to adopt more robust net neutrality rules that would forbid ISPs to charge for so-called "fast lanes." At the same time, Netflix has cut deals with Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Time Warner Cable under which it's paying for dedicated interconnections.
But over all, Netflix's future looks bright, according to Mahaney. Later this month, Netflix expects to launch service in six new European countries: Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland. Per Mahaney's analysis, Netflix's rollouts outside the U.S. to date have been relatively successful, with its 14 million international subs represented an estimated 15% penetration of all broadband households in current markets.
The new European markets represent a 70% increase (65 million households) of Netflix addressable market, so with 10%-20% penetration those territories could generate 7 million to 13 million new subs for Netflix by 2016, Mahaney said.
Meanwhile, RBC's 12th U.S. Internet survey polling 1,007 consumers this month found that Netflix's streaming customers remain very happy with the service. About 65% of current Netflix subs are "extremely satisfied" or "very satisfied," the second-highest level the firm has tracked over the past three years, with the 23% saying they are "extremely satisfied" a record high.
In addition, 73% of U.S. Netflix users said they were "not at all likely" to cancel Netflix in the next three months and 57% agreed that original content was "extremely important," "quite important," or "moderately important" to their decision to remain a sub (both metrics the highest RBC has recorded for the company).
The Wall Street firm also pointed to upbeat customer feedback in the U.K., with 70% of Netflix users there saying they are "extremely satisfied" or "very satisfied," consistent with prior levels. The survey of 2,000 British Internet users also found a record high 25% of them use Netflix to watch movies and TV shows, which was behind YouTube (42%) but increasingly ahead of Amazon (15%).
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