Roku shares tank after Morgan Stanley says valuation ‘hard to justify,’ downgrades stock

Key Points
  • Morgan Stanley on Thursday lowers its rating to underweight from equal-weight for Roku shares.
  • The firm's analyst says the stock's valuation at more than 17 times estimated 2018 platform sales is too excessive.
  • Roku shares fell 6 percent Thursday.
People pass by a video sign display with the logo for Roku, a Fox-backed video streaming firm, that held it's IPO at the Nasdaq Marketsite in New York, September 28, 2017.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Investors should take profits after Roku shares nearly tripled following its earnings report, according to a top Wall Street firm.

Morgan Stanley on Thursday lowered its rating to underweight from equal-weight for Roku shares, citing the company's high valuation.

Roku posted third-quarter financial results on Nov. 8. Its shares are up 194 percent through Wednesday since the report.

"Roku delivered stronger than expected 3Q results, showing impressive momentum in active account and engagement growth," analyst Benjamin Swinburne wrote in a note to clients. "However, we think the market has overreacted, with shares up ~200% since results. Current valuation (>17x '18E platform revs, assuming 1.5x fwd player sales) is hard to justify."

Roku shares declined 6 percent Thursday. Swinburne increased his Roku price target to $30 from $25, representing 46 percent downside to Wednesday's close.

The analyst noted the top five channels out of 5,000 channels on Roku's platform generated 70 percent of consumers' time spent. He said two of the top channels, Netflix and YouTube, do not generate "material" sales for the company.

"If market share on consumer time spent increasingly shifts towards these larger scale players (e.g. Netflix, YouTube) and away from the long-tail, we believe Roku's monetization opportunity could be more limited than the stock is pricing in today," he wrote. "Consumer shift to OTT delivery of video is clear and accelerating; while well positioned to benefit, Roku's long-term earnings potential from this shift remains less clear."

Roku declined to comment for this story.

— CNBC's Michael Bloom contributed to this story.