Netflix stock is negative for 2019 and Wall St analysts are panicking


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Two more Wall Street analysts have begun expressing doubts about Netflix and warning the company’s coming quarterly earnings may disappoint yet again, just after the stock turned negative for the year.

Pivotal Research Group cut its price target on Netflix shares by nearly a third on Tuesday, to $350 from $515. The firm warned investors that Netflix is facing much higher than expected costs to license content, as well as intense competition from both media and technology giants.

“The issue lately has been the aforementioned material accelerating content costs, perceived aggressive moves by new Internet players/Apple and this has been exacerbated by increasing investor concern that subscribers in 3Q may once again be weaker than expected,” Pivotal Research Group analyst Jeffrey Wlodarczak said.

Wlodarczak also says Netflix is headed into its third quarter earnings with the risk of missing expected subscriber growth. Additionally, the analyst could also see Netflix forecast worse than expected free cash flow losses, likely tied to accelerating content costs.

KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Andy Hargreaves similarly expressed concern about Netflix’s upcoming results, in a note on Monday titled “Setup into 3Q Isn’t Ideal.” KeyBanc has a sector weight rating on Netflix stock, with no price target.

“Even good results are unlikely to address competitive fear,” Hargreaves said. “Weak results/guidance in 3Q could raise concerns about longer-term growth that would likely be negative for the stock. In-line or slightly better results could drive a modest relief rally, but would not likely address competitive concerns since new services do not launch until 4Q.”

“This suggests only very significant upside in 3Q is likely to drive sustainable upside in the shares, and we have little to provide confidence in that outcome,” Hargreaves added.

Netflix shares slipped 0.4% in premarket trading from its previous close of $265.92 a share. The stock fell 1.8% on Monday, bringing its decline for 2019 to 0.7%.

Pivotal and KeyBanc join a chorus of concern that began in the past week by Bernstein – which estimates Netflix could fall as low as $230 a share during this plunge – and Barclays – which called the stock “very expensive.”

The sharp move lower in Netflix shares is leading a shift in analysts’ confidence in the streaming service. In July, with Netflix stock up over 40% for the year, Wall Street stuck by Netflix as it lost rights to air “The Office,” its most streamed show. At the time, 38 of the 40 analysts covering the company had either buy or hold ratings on Netflix shares, according to FactSet at the time.

Analysts told CNBC that the loss of “The Office” marked a plateau in the stock rather than a top. But, since then, Netflix stock has given up its gains for 2019 as investors watched the company report disappointing second quarter results, coupled with pressure from the coming launch of competing services of Disney, Apple, Comcast and more.

Netflix has dramatically under performed its technology peers this year in the informal FAANG group – which also includes Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google-parent Alphabet.

Netflix is the only negative stock for 2019 among the five FAANG companies.

CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.



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