Netflix's Accelerated Global Rollout Catches Wall Street Off Guard


Netflix Inc's faster-than-expected rollout in overseas markets surprised many analysts, who scrambled to raise their price targets on the stock.

Shares of the video streaming service, which reported stronger-than-expected quarterly results on Tuesday, were set to open about 18 percent higher on Wednesday.

The stock has been under pressure in recent months on fears of increased competition from Time Warner Inc's HBO, Inc and Hulu, as well as on-demand offerings from pay TV providers.

At least 11 analysts raised their price targets on the stock, after the company said it would complete its expansion into around 200 countries within two years.

“In our view, this is aggressive but possible, with the rapid proliferation of connected devices,” BMO Capital Markets analyst Edward Williams wrote in a note.

“Perhaps more importantly, this signals the timing of when the heavy investment phase could end.”

Some analysts said the accelerated global rollout would boost the company's profits in 2017 and beyond.

J.P. Morgan Securities was the most bullish, raising its price target on the stock by $61 to $511. The stock, which closed at $348.80 on Tuesday, was trading at $412 before the opening bell on Wednesday.

The median price target on the stock is $450, according to Thomson Reuters data.

“… We believe Netflix is skillfully navigating the transition between slowing subscriber growth in the profitable U.S. segment and international expansion,” Stifel, Nicolaus & Co analyst Scott Devitt wrote in a note, raising his target to $500 from $380.

Netflix, which has a presence in about 50 countries, beat its own guidance by adding 4.3 million subscribers for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, helped by higher-than-expected interest overseas.

In the United States, Netflix pulled in 1.9 million streaming customers, down from 2.3 million additions a year earlier.

Netflix also said it would increase the percentage of content spending devoted to original series.

“We … believe a heavy slate of new originals should act as a tailwind,” J.P. Morgan analysts said.

Apart from new seasons of “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards”, the company is planning to release Tina Fey-created comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and Marvel's superhero series “Daredevil” among others this year.