Netflix Stock Is the Best Contrarian Bet in Tech

Netflix stock has deteriorated, but Netflix's fundamentals haven't.

Despite Disney+ risk, Netflix stock looks strong heading into Q1

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What’s different about Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) now than on Oct. 17? Netflix stock is cheaper, obviously. Since closing at $364.70 on that day, NFLX stock has dropped almost $100, representing a decline of nearly 27%.

But what’s changed about Netflix’s business during that time? On Oct. 16, the company reported strong third-quarter results. Its earnings and subscriber growth both came in well ahead of its guidance and Street expectations. And the results seemed to mitigate many of the concerns raised by its more disappointing Q2 report back in July.

In the five weeks or so since, though, there really hasn’t been any news or any change in the outlook for Netflix’s earnings. Obviously, the broad market has weakened, with tech stocks noticeably underperforming. But even the drivers behind the selloff, other than perhaps valuation, don’t seem quite as relevant to NFLX stock.

And so for investors who see the market selloff as an opportunity, Netflix stock should look very attractive right here. It’s possible, obviously, that NFLX stock was simply too expensive in June and July, when the stock traded above $400. Still, investors who believe market sentiment will improve should look closely at Netflix stock, which has a clear, near-term path back to $300+ and beyond.

Why NFLX Stock?

One obvious explanation for the weakness of NFLX stock is that large-cap tech is getting hammered across the board. But I’d note that there are company-specific reasons why the share prices of even the largest, most widely held, tech stocks, i.e., the so-called “FAANG” group (besides NFLX), are coming down.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is dealing with renewed questions about smartphone market saturation. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) posted mixed earnings and has clear exposure to potentially slowing U.S. and overseas economies. Regulatory concerns swirl around Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB).

Obviously, the entire market has sold off as well. Long-running concerns about valuation may finally be negatively affecting the market, and those concerns can obviously impact NFLX stock as well. Concerns about tariffs and the trade war aren’t helping. U.S. investors are taking cash out of the market, and in that context the selloff of NFLX might not seem surprising.

But at this point, the macro risks seem manageable, if not minimal. If anything, a U.S. recession might help Netflix’s subscriber numbers. Penny-pinching by consumers could accelerate cord-cutting, causing more consumers to subscribe to the service.

And I’m far from convinced that Netflix stock necessarily was overvalued in June and July, despite its high headline price-earnings ratio and its negative free cash flow. If NFLX stock was overvalued, then the entire market likely was overvalued to some extent, if not to the same degree as NFLX. But if investors’ confidence in the market returns, Netflix stock will probably be one of the first names to re-rate higher.

The Story Behind Netflix Stock Hasn’t Changed

The key point is simple: nothing has really changed for Netflix. Its profit could be marginally impacted by the strong dollar. Slower economic expansion could depress the company’s overseas subscriber growth over the long-term. (I still believe that Netflix’s value proposition is strong enough to withstand that trend, but Netflix really has never been through a recession, so the impact an economic downturn would have on NFLX is uncertain.)

When it comes to fundamentals, however, Netflix is the same as it was five weeks ago. It still has a path to become the preeminent distributor and creator of content in the world. It still could dominate entertainment like no company we’ve ever seen. Its competition hasn’t changed: investors knew in October (and in June) that Disney (NYSE:DIS) was going to launch a streaming service. Neither Amazon nor Hulu is taking additional market share.

Netflix’s outlook admittedly isn’t perfect. Its subscriber growth is key, and I’ve highlighted the risks of the company’s content strategy numerous times. NFLX stock still looks very expensive by any traditional measure. I can see why some investors might believe that Netflix stock still isn’t close to cheap enough.

The Path Higher

But Netflix stock also has fallen 27% in five weeks on essentially no news. The value assigned to each Netflix subscriber has dropped from about $1,200 to its current level of $875.

Perhaps $1,200 was too high. That, however, means that the bear case for Netflix stock is, “investors were dumb before, and now they’re less dumb.” That may be true, but if that is indeed the case, the rest of tech probably won’t rally, either. It’s enormously unlikely that NFLX, one of the most covered and analyzed stocks in the market, was a bubble and everything else wasn’t.

Meanwhile, if market sentiment strengthens, or even stabilizes, investors are going to see NFLX stock at $265 as an opportunity. With analysts’ average price target on Netflix stock still near $400, they are still upbeat on NFLX stock.

And so Netflix stock is rather intriguing at the moment. Any investor who thinks that the selloff, particularly in tech, has gone too far has to at least strongly consider buying NFLX, if only for a trade. That market-wide selloff is basically the only reason Netflix stock has fallen since its earnings. If the market reverses, Netflix stock almost certainly will, too.

As of this writing, Vince Martin has no positions in any securities mentioned.


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