Generation Z, born after the year 2000, has grown up in a world dominated by the cloud czars, where cynicism about technology motives and actions is pervasive, and where protecting your identity rather than publicizing it is the norm.
Wall Street has been buying this argument, and loving the growth, in 2019. Shares that traded at under $6 in January are now trading at over $15. The market cap is up to $21.1 billion and CEO Evan Spiegel, once considered Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) road kill, now has a net worth of $3.5 billion.
But the shares are still below their post-IPO high, below their February 2018 peak. Snap is still a minnow next to Facebook, let alone Chinese giants like Tencent Holdings (OTCMKTS:TCEHY). Does this move have legs?
The Bull Case for SNAP Stock
Snap’s growth is once again in overdrive. After bringing in $1.18 billion of 2018 revenue, the company brought in $320 million in the first quarter and is expected to report over $350 million for the June quarter on July 23, albeit with an 8 cent per share loss. If it can keep that up for the rest of the year, Snap could bring in $1.52 billion for all of 2019, a growth rate of nearly 29%.
Snap is getting new respect from developers for Scan, an augmented reality platform that can be used to create .gifs on the fly, solve math problems from pictures, and become the heart of a new gaming system.
Previous AR platforms lacked the community and daily use to interest Wall Street. Snap is also rolling out a new ad platform to monetize Scan. It says it is now used by 90% of 13-24 year-olds, which is more than Facebook reaches with either its main platform or Instagram.
Snap’s earlier features, like self-erasing messages, were quickly copied by Facebook. The hope is it can innovate its way away from the larger company. Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) recently put Snap back on its buy list. Analysts are also enjoying a new gender swap filter that can let users disguise themselves to friends.
The Bear Case for SNAP Stock
There can be a downside to anything.
Stalkers could use the gender swap filter to cozy up to victims. The AR platform could also be misused. Snap is still focused on making money from advertising built on personal information, which is why many turned away from Facebook and even Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL, NASDAQ:GOOG) Google.
Snap has gone from being cheap to being overvalued, cynics say, arguing bulls are getting ahead of themselves. They note that Twitter (NASDAQ:TWTR) generates three times Snap’s revenue from a smaller user base. They say paying more than 10 times expected 2019 revenue for a money-losing company near the end of a recovery is, at best, speculative. Even some who are bullish on Snap are now suggesting option strategies to limit risk.
The Bottom Line
Snap is more than fully valued.
If you’re going to put money into it, you are going to have to watch that money closely. A negative earnings report, or a single bad headline, can still send Snap crashing to Earth.
If you got into Snap at its lows, a hard fall still leaves you with an attractive acquisition target, at a price higher than what you paid. But even in that case, the take-out would not be at a premium to the current price.
What you’re left with is a trade, a speculation for young investors who might lose their stake but will at least learn a lesson from it. If you make this old man look foolish with your fat profits, you can buy me dinner.
Dana Blankenhorn is a financial and technology journalist. He is the author of the mystery thriller, The Reluctant Detective Finds Her Family, available at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn. As of this writing he owned no shares in companies mentioned in this article.