Snap Jumps to Highest in Six Months After Winning Over BTIG Analyst

(Bloomberg) -- Snap Inc. shares jumped to their highest level since August after finally winning over BTIG, which set a Street-high price target of $15.

"Virtually everything that could go wrong for Snapchat over the past couple years since going public has gone wrong," wrote analyst Rich Greenfield, who upgraded the stock to buy.

Greenfield noted a surge in North America spending from advertisers based in the rest of the world, most likely Asia, during the second half of 2018 and should benefit revenue growth this year. He’s increasingly confident that overseas direct response/performance advertisers are taking advantage of low relative bid prices on ad inventory in the U.S.

Snap Jumps to Highest in Six Months After Winning Over BTIG Analyst

Greenfield in September downgraded Snap to sell before growing more positive about three months later, raising the rating to neutral. In a note, Greenfield spelled out several other reasons for his now-bullish view, ranging from a "less seedy" Discover section and improving morale.

He expects that Snapchat will further separate its professional and user-generated content within the Discover section. This will lead to a better user experience and increase the attractiveness to advertisers. "We have repeatedly highlighted the low-quality, clickbait feel of Snapchat’s Discover section," Greenfield wrote.

BTIG also noted that the newly rebuilt Android app has been performing notably better, especially within the Discover section. Users are coming onto the platform for the first time, he said.

These improvements, along with some executive hiring and a clear strategic roadmap, has led to a more upbeat mood within the company, Greenfield said. "2018 was an awful year for Snapchat with morale at all-time lows," he wrote. "We can feel the improved morale and momentum internally."

In a separate note, Jefferies analyst Brent Thill raised his price target for Snap Inc. shares to $11 from $9 after visiting the company’s new offices in Santa Monica, California, writing that it "felt like it had grown up from a start-up to a more mature company".

Thill said having employees closer in functional areas helped to drive a unified culture and instill enthusiasm after shares plunged 63% in 2018. He maintained his hold rating and cited the need for the social media app to fully roll out its Android re-build, hire a new CFO and continue to increase advertiser density.

"We’re seeing two way short-side action in SNAP as some sellers are shorting into the rally looking for a short term correction" Ihor Dusaniwsky, managing director of financial analytics firm S3 Partners said in an email interview. “Others are closing out some of their SNAP exposure after taking over $140 million in mark-to-market losses today, which adds onto their $609 million in year-to-date mark-to-market losses they already incurred in 2019."

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