Facebook Plunges After Slowing Growth Draws Analyst Downgrades

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. shares plunged as much as 20 percent as trading opened in New York after revenue and user growth missed estimates, raising concerns on Wall Street and prompting at least three analyst downgrades. New growth drivers such as Instagram “frankly aren’t big enough” to overcome slowing growth and margin pressure over the near term, according to UBS. Other analysts haven’t lost faith in the social-media giant. As Morgan Stanley noted,“Facebook has shown an ability to innovate and execute through previous challenges.”

Facebook Plunges After Slowing Growth Draws Analyst Downgrades

Here is a roundup of what analysts are saying following the results:

Raymond James, Aaron Kessler

Kessler cut his rating on Facebook to outperform from strong buy and lowered his price target to $210 from $240 based on “increased near-term uncertainty on revenue growth, slowing user growth, and lower margin forecast.”

UBS, Eric Sheridan

Sheridan cut his rating to neutral from buy and lowered his price target on Facebook to $180 from $212. He writes that “new growth drivers (Instagram, Watch, Stories, Messenger/WhatsApp, VR) frankly aren’t big enough over the short/medium term to alter the decelerating growth & margin pressure profile of the P&L.”

He sees the risk/reward for Facebook as balanced with “strong momentum in Instagram measured against regulatory attention, investments to transform/protect ecosystem, & slowing engagement/more mature ad trends at core FB.”

JPMorgan, Doug Anmuth

JPMorgan removed Facebook from its analyst focus list and cut its price target to $205 from $242. The bank remains overweight-rated on the stock.

Anmuth said the shift in Facebook user behavior from Feed to Stories could create near-term monetization headwinds.

While part of the revenue impact in the second quarter was due to currency headwinds, Anmuth said Facebook “felt data and privacy issues more in Europe with some early impact from GDPR in both users and monetization.”

It appears that advertisers are also being more cautious around targeting customers, Anmuth said.

Nomura, Mark Kelley

Kelley cut his rating to neutral from buy and lowered his price target to $183 from $228.

The shortfall in the quarter was “spread across metrics and geographies and was more than just a side effect of GDPR.” Kelley noted that consolidated net adds haven’t been this light since the third quarter of 2014.

“It’s possible (and likely, in our view) that management is being overly conservative on the margin side as it looks to invest in security and product simultaneously.”

Kelley said it may be a considerable amount of time before WhatsApp monetization comes into focus.

Read More: These Hedge Funds May Blame Facebook For a Lousy Thursday

Morgan Stanley, Brian Nowak

One of the “most notable” challenges for Facebook is the company’s decision to push core users to use “Stories” format at a faster rate. But the fact is, that format is still monetizing at “materially lower” rates than News Feed, Nowak said.

Facebook “will now need to increase its execution around stories engagement and ad innovation.”

The analyst reiterated the stock’s overweight rating, while cutting his price target to $185 from $215.

RBC Capital Markets, Mark Mahaney

Fundamentals weakened in the second quarter, with revenue growth decelerating and operating margin falling.

But the analyst said “don’t unfriend FB now,” noting that Facebook’s guidance on revenue and margin may be “overly conservative.”

“FB stills owns two of the largest media assets in the world and the two largest messaging assets in the world,” Mahaney said. “Our checks and management commentary suggest no material change in marketer views of the attractiveness of FB platforms. This likely constitutes One of the Best Entry Points you can get on FB.”

Mahaney has an outperform rating on the shares and cut his price target to $225 from $250.

Baird, Colin Sebastian

“Clearly, Facebook is more focused this year on strengthening content quality and platform security, which likely accounts for part of the deceleration in revenues and user growth,” Sebastian said. “Stronger Instagram performance (according to our checks) was not enough to offset some of the core app headwinds.”

Sebastian has an outperform rating.

Jefferies, Brent Thill

“Fundamentals remain intact, and we believe that there was no incentive for a blowout quarter in light of recent news,” according to Thill. “We continue to believe that Instagram is a catalyst for ’18 & ’19 as users continue to flock to the platform and upside to advertiser demand continues.”

Given the stock’s gains this year, “results were not what was needed to continue momentum.”

Thill recommends buying the stock.

GBH Insights, Daniel Ives

“We ultimately believe the advertising revenues and underlying MAU/DAU metrics were ‘good enough’ and show the worries of a massive fundamental and user deterioration at Facebook post Cambridge was more bark than bite.”

“So far the fundamental damage to the Facebook platform has been very contained in our opinion and is generally better than feared.”

Ives has a highly attractive rating on the shares.

CICC, He Wei

The analyst expects compliance costs to rise as global regulators tighten rules targeting technology giants.

“With its strong management execution, the company remains one of the best online ad platforms in the mid-to-long term.”

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