It’s safe to say that Netflix has no shortage of fans on Wall Street. But BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield just raised the bar to unprecedented heights.
On Wednesday, he boosted his price target on the stock to $225, making him the most bullish analyst on the Street. That’s head and shoulders above the average year-end estimate for Netflix, which Bloomberg data lists at $186.44. For the company to reach the rarefied air from Greenfield’s forecast, it has to surge roughly 19% by year-end.
In a note accompanying his price-target boost, Greenfield heaped praise upon the company, which surged 14% in a single day last week after its quarterly earnings report showed subscriber growth that destroyed expectations.
The company is “hitting escape velocity,” he wrote in a client note. “It appears increasingly apparent that legacy media companies have indeed created a ‘monster’ that is threatening their financial future.”
To Greenfield, the most impressive part of Netflix’s subscriber-growth story isn’t the global expansion that’s smashed forecasts – it’s the reacceleration of US subscriptions. Domestic additions are now on par with 2014 and 2015, despite a much larger existing customer base, he notes.
So what's driving Netflix's unstoppable flood of new subscribers? Greenfield says it's "a direct result of its aggressive content production/licensing strategy, combined with its best-in-class technology." He also lauded the company's ability to apply both drivers on a global scale.
Greenfield's fresh bout of bullishness comes with Netflix's stock hovering near record highs. After all, it's the best-performing member of the elite group of FANG stocks - which also includes Facebook, Amazon, and Google - having risen 52% this year.
But there are still some investors who refuse to get caught off-guard should the stock overheat. Heading into second-quarter earnings last week, short interest - a measure of bets that share prices will drop - sat close to the highest level of 2017. Those short sellers took a $400 million bath as the stock surged but have largely stuck with positions since the report, according to IHS Markit data.
This is at least partially because investors are increasingly using shorts on red-hot mega-cap tech stocks as a hedge for the entire market, says Ihor Dusaniwsky, the head of research at the financial analytics firm S3 Partners.
Those traders may be waiting a while for Netflix to cooperate, however. Greenfield sees global subscriber growth continuing to swell in 2018, and as the company's most recent earnings report indicated, investors can't resist buying more when they see that.