Snap has nearly doubled its stock price since the beginning of 2019 — here's why

Key Points
  • Shares of Snap have nearly doubled since the beginning of 2019 following a tough year with high executive turnover.
  • Analysts are optimistic about Snap's roll out of its new Android app and increased ROI for advertisers, among other changes.
  • Snap is still down about 23 percent over the past 12 months.
Evan Spiegel, co-founder and chief executive officer of Snapchat.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Snap has made a major comeback so far in 2019, nearly doubling its stock price from $5.79 on the first trading day of the year to $11.28 as of Thursday's market close.

Snap's market value is now nearly $15 billion, compared to just over $7 billion at the beginning of 2019. Over the past six months, the stock has rallied 45 percent after falling as low as $4.82 in the past year.

Snap's stabilizing user base and better than expected earnings report in its fourth quarter 2018 seems to have raised investor confidence in the stock. Investors are still eagerly awaiting the new version of Snap's Android app to be fully rolled out, but analysts seem to be more confident in its arrival and ability to grow its user base.

Snap still has a lot to prove to investors to show the worst is behind it. The company is still down about 23 percent over the past 12 months and has experienced high turnover among its top executives. It posted a loss in its latest earnings report, even though it was lower than Wall Street expectations.

Here are some of the reasons analysts have given over the past few months when upgrading their price targets or ratings on Snap:

Faith in company culture

Despite the churn in top executives, analysts have written in the past few months that Snap seems to have turned a corner when it comes to company culture.

After a visit to Snap's Santa Monica offices, Jefferies analysts wrote in March that it "felt like it had grown up from a start-up to a more mature company." The analysts raised their price target from $9 to $11, feeling "generally impressed with the cohesion and positive steps on the road to recovery."

Anticipating Android app roll out

Users and investors alike have been eagerly awaiting Snapchat's redesigned Android app, which CEO Evan Spiegel said in February, would be rolled out by the end of 2019.

Android is key to Snap's international strategy, since the operating system dominates in many countries outside of the U.S. Analysts believe that once Snapchat's Android rebuild is deployed, it will be able to attract many more users.

"With the rebuild slowly being rolled out, performance is showing positive signs especially in geographies where users are on lower spec phones with less connectivity," Jefferies analysts wrote in March, saying their models anticipate an additional 7 million daily active users throughout the year.

Citi analysts also wrote in January that the new Android app "could improve user engagement and growth."

More monetization opportunities

Snap announced several new features Thursday, including a new ad-supported gaming platform and an audience network that will allow Snap to place ads in third-party apps. Analysts at Consumer Edge Research see potential in new monetization opportunities like this, according to a note from last month.

Initiating coverage of Snap with the equivalent of a buy rating and price target of $14, the analysts wrote that they "expect the company to unlock value as an entertainment platform," and that investors could be overlooking in-app purchase opportunities.

Promising ROI for advertisers

Snap's growth in average revenue per user (ARPU) has also raised investor confidence in the stock. In a January note upgrading the stock from a sell to neutral rating, Citi analysts cited accelerating ARPU in Snap's third quarter 2018 as a reason for the change.

"[A]dvertisers/agencies we speak with are generally optimistic about the outlook for the platform, including stating that policy changes have made it easier to distribute content and platform changes have resulted in improved campaign analysis," the Citi analysts wrote. While the analysts still saw risk in executive turnover, the analysts had raised their price target from $6 to $7.

Cowen analysts also upgraded the stock to the equivalent of a neutral rating in January after surveying ad buyers in the U.S. According to the survey, half of respondents advertising on Snap said they were spending more after the company's shift to programmatic auction advertising. Half of respondents also said this change improved their return on investment on the platform. Since then, Cowen analysts raised their price target to $8 in February, according to FactSet.

Slowing Expenses

Analysts are looking toward the point where Snap can breakeven on an adjusted basis. Citi analysts wrote in their January note that slowing expense growth in the previous quarters "could bode well for margins/profits."

Snap posted losses per share of 4 cents, which was lower than analyst expectations of 7 cents, per Refinitiv.

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