Wall Street analysts were mostly caught off guard by Snap's better than expected earnings report after the bell on Tuesday. The technology and social media company posted a solid quarter showing a more stable user base.
Shares were up 24 percent at the open to $8.77, but most analysts remained negative on the stock.
In a note to clients, Bank of America's Justin Post titled his report, "Stable (users) is far from a victory, but an important step forward." He also said, "However, our survey work suggests Snap still has high levels of churn, while we continue to think Instagram and Whataspp will be difficult to displace in international markets even with an improved app."
Noting the pop in the stock, Susquehanna's Shyam Patil said, "We reiterate our negative (rating) and would take advantage of the pop in the shares, as we think fundamentals remain extremely challenged and continue to see a downward bias to forward estimates."
"Overall, these were improving results with stable users & engagement following the stumbles of 2018 and better cost discipline," wrote J.P. Morgan's Doug Anmuth. "We believe there is better risk/reward in other names, including FB & TWTR, which are two of our top picks," he said.
But Raymond James upgraded the stock to market perform from underperform citing, "Stabilizing DAU (Daily Active User) trends and redesign of Android could drive an improvement in 2019."
RBC's Mark Mahaney went so far as to compare Snap to another social media giant saying, ""Is This TWTR At The Beginning of '17?!"
"The pieces may be in place. A successful ads platform auction transition, ongoing product innovation (for both advertisers and users), and Android platform improvements rolling out," Mahaney added.
Here's what else the analysts think:
"We are upgrading shares of SNAP from Underperform to Market Perform with a High Risk/ Growth suitability rating given: 1) stabilizing DAU trends and redesign of Android could drive an improvement in 2019; 2) continued solid ad growth driven by revenue/user up 37% y/y in 4Q and adoption of its self-serve ad platform; 3) outlook for improved EBITDA performance with continued solid top line growth and relatively flat opex... We believe SNAP can achieve EBITDA breakeven by 2020... We believe 1Q EBITDA guidance is likely conservative as well... While more positive on fundamentals, valuation at ~8x 2019 revenues (vs. 6x for Facebook and Twitter) and continued competition concerns (e.g., Instagram) limit our enthusiasm..."
"Overall, these were improving results with stable users & engagement following the stumbles of 2018 and better cost discipline... SNAP's business is showing signs of strength with the launch of new ad formats & an improved self-serve offering while growing industry adoption of the vertical (i.e. Stories) ad format also provides a tailwind... Though these were encouraging results, one quarter doesn't make a trend and we remain underweight as we look for further signs of improvement in the business... We continue to believe growing DAUs will be challenging and the competitive landscape for both user time and advertiser dollars remains intense.. We believe there is better risk/reward in other names, including FB & TWTR, which are two of our top picks..."
"Stable (users) is far from a victory, but an important step forward.. User trends trail peers, but improved from 2Q-3Q, and we expect some optimism on ongoing Android app rollouts... However, our survey work suggests Snap still has high levels of churn, while we continue to think Instagram and Whataspp will be difficult to displace in International markets even with an improved app...Our PO is based on 6x revenue of $1.94bn, which compares to Twitter trading at 7x 2020 revenue... We note Snap has higher '19 revenue growth, but lower DAU growth and much lower margins..."
"Is This TWTR At The Beginning of '17?! The pieces may be in place. A successful ads platform auction transition, ongoing product innovation (for both advertisers and users), and Android platform improvements rolling out.... The key remains reigniting DAU growth... Two problems are that a) waiting for the Android fix has been like waiting for Godot… and b) @ 8X '19E P/S, SNAP's valuation implies that Godot IS coming around the corner... Things clearly getting less worse, but are they getting better?"
"Is This the Snapback?....Not quite yet. But 4Q users were better than expected and SNAP is making progress on ads and opex discipline. Looking ahead, a successful Android launch and further ad improvements will be important...Looking ahead, we are focused on the recent (last week) realignment of the sales force (focusing on individual verticals such as gaming and direct-to-consumer ecommerce) and signs of further improvement in advertiser tools/measurement/ROI to drive faster ad revenue growth and further upside.."
"SNAP ended the year on a high note with a top-line beat and narrower losses than expected, which directionally we knew would be the case given the company told us revenue and Adjusted EBITDA would be "slightly favorable to the top end" of guidance in its press release announcing the departure of Tim Stone (former CFO)... The two most positive pieces of the 4Q story were that the user base stabilized, and the redesigned Android app has been rolled out selectively after a fairly long wait; the company expects a broader rollout to other geographies sooner rather than later... The selfserve platform was highlighted as an area of leverage, and the vertically aligned salesforce (just implemented; rolling out over the next few months) will be focused on educating advertisers (self-serve is now 90% of ad revenue)... We also think the Stories ad format is gaining traction by virtue of Facebook's push there as well, which is something that likely bodes well for SNAP longer term if user trends improve... Some of the potential areas of caution are that ad load is the driver of revenue growth (when does that max out?), and there are still some key executive roles that need to be filled (CFO, CMO), but on the whole this was a pretty solid quarter..."
"Turning From Fear Toward Questions of Consistent Execution: With a better than expected Q4 EPS report and Q1 commentary slightly better than our estimates, we think SNAP is getting a deserved stock price bounce after a very tough FY2018 (-62.3% vs -0.6% SPX).. Looking out beyond the short-term & trying to see a path to be more constructive, our attention will be centered on mgmt execution around user growth (incl. attracting 35+ year olds in NA & Europe; driving engagement among core users through product innovations & more efficient bandwidth consumption; and launch of a redesigned Android version to better attack RoW opportunity)..."
"We upgraded SNAP to neutral from sell on 1/14/19 on our view that fundamentals could improve in 2019 and that the valuation could be at/near a floor... 4Q revenue of $390mn beat by 2-3%, driven by DAUs of 186mn that were 1-2% above forecasts and by continued strong ARPU growth... Mgmt's 1Q revenue guidance of $285-$310mn is roughly in-line w/ consensus at the mid-pt and the co. has outperformed revenue guidance of late... Mgmt expects DAUs not to decline seq., which is encouraging... Likewise, 1Q adj. EBITDA guidance of ($165)-(140)mn is better than the consensus at ($174)mn... Mgmt stated that it has begun to roll out its new Android app to small set of users, and that tests have been positive. All in, we view these results and outlook as encouraging... However, given valuation and still-flat user and engagement trends, we maintain our Neutral rating..."
"Does Not Terrible = Good? SNAP is seeing a "not as bad as expected" rally as DAUs held stable sequentially in 4Q and management is upbeat about 2019 prospects and even expects DAUs to be at least stable sequentially again in 1Q19... We reiterate our Negative and would take advantage of the pop in the shares, as we think fundamentals remain extremely challenged and continue to see a downward bias to forward estimates... We see competition from FB/IG, a saturated core demo (and a weak presence outside the U.S.), issues with Android, and lackluster ad products as continuing to pose challenges for the company…and we don't think the CFO would've left after only eight months if the business was about to turn... "