At the end of the third quarter, Pinterest (NYSE:PINS) had 322 million monthly active users (MAUs). That fact, along with the market value assigned PINS stock, sets up a rather interesting comparison.
Pinterest’s enterprise value (EV) — its market capitalization less cash — is $11.3 billion. Snap (NYSE:SNAP) announced it had 210 million DAUs (daily active users) for its 3Q earnings, which means its monthly user base is likely much higher. Furthermore, its EV is more than twice as high.
Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) finished 2018 with 321 million MAUs, at which point it stopped disclosing that figure. It closed the 3Q 2019 with 145 million DAUs, and its enterprise value is right around $23 billion — almost exactly double that of Pinterest.
From a per-user standpoint, PINS stock looks noticeably undervalued. The question at this point, though, is if it should be.
PINS Stock Rallies
Trading in Pinterest stock this week suggests investors are paying closer attention to user-based valuation. A report on Tuesday from eMarketer showed that Pinterest actually has more U.S. users than Snapchat in 2019. In the three ensuing sessions, PINS stock gained 17%.
Again, the optimism makes some sense — particularly with PINS stock struggling in recent weeks. Shares plunged after the company’s third-quarter report in November showed slowing revenue growth. But the report was hardly terrible: the top line still grew 47% year-over-year in the quarter.
Also, with PINS stock below $20 after fading further following the post-earnings selloff, valuation looked reasonable — at least by social media stock standards. Valuation remains reasonable, with EV/2019 revenue just above 10x, and the 2020 multiple barely above 7x. On a top-line basis, too, PINS trades at a discount to TWTR and SNAP.
In fact, it trades at only a modest premium to Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), whose revenue growth next year is expected to be around 21% versus 35% for Pinterest. It might seem crazy — or the sign of a bubble in the market — to argue that PINS stock is cheap at 7x revenue, with adjusted earnings per share (EPS) next year likely to be barely positive. But, on a relative basis, it is.
The Case for Pinterest Stock
And where that gets particularly interesting is looking at how Pinterest monetizes those users. Simply put, Pinterest isn’t doing a very good job — yet. Its global ARPU (average revenue per user) in the third quarter was just $0.90. The figure at Snap (albeit on a daily user basis, which inflates the number somewhat in comparison) was $2.12. Twitter (again, based on daily numbers) was near $6, and Facebook (using MAUs) above $7 — about eight times that of Pinterest.
Somewhat counterintuitively, this is good news for PINS stock, as it means there’s plenty of room for improvement. That’s most obviously true overseas, as ARPU outside the U.S. in the third quarter was just 13 cents. On the other hand, SNAP stock has rallied over the past 13 months thanks to optimism toward its own potential for better monetization, especially overseas. Pinterest has a similar opportunity and a lower stock price, at least relative to its users and revenue.
The eMarketer report seems to have reminded investors of that fact, and so the rally this week makes some sense.
That said, there are three key risks here. The first is that the other stocks in the social media space may well be overvalued. Pinterest stock could outperform SNAP going forward, but that alone doesn’t mean PINS will rally.
The second is that competition is going to be intense, and Pinterest is later to the game. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) quickly is becoming a force in online advertising, and threatening the duopoly of Facebook and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) in the process. Pinterest is a later entrant into the space, which may make it more difficult to challenge those giants.
Finally, it’s fair to wonder at least a little bit, if execution needs to improve. The international ARPU figures in particular are quite soft — and can’t be explained solely by different demographics and buyer behaviors. All social media companies have much higher monetization domestically, but none have the huge spread that Pinterest does; ARPU in Q3 was $2.90 in the U.S., 22x the overseas figure.
The opportunity for improvement is bullish in the sense that ARPU can drive overall revenue growth. However, it’s bearish in the sense that the opportunity is so large. ARPU rose just 14% YOY in Q3. A 26% rise in the U.S. is solid, but with the domestic user base up just 8% YOY, there might not be enough in that market to drive the growth still priced into the stock.
Meanwhile, overseas markets, again, are much smaller: even Facebook generated just $3.24 per user in Asia-Pacific in Q3, and $2.24 in its “Rest of World” segment (which excludes the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia Pacific). That’s a big reason why PINS stock slumped so much after the Q3 report, despite seemingly impressive consolidated results.
A Key Earnings Report for PINS Stock
Recent trading and the reaction to Q3 suggest that the fourth-quarter report, due on Feb. 6, is exceedingly important. Investor enthusiasm has built just this week. Valuation might be cheap on a relative basis, but PINS stock still trades at nearly 7 times 2020 revenue and over 300 time adjusted EPS.
Pinterest doesn’t necessarily have to prove its ability to better monetize users in a single quarter, but it needs to inspire confidence on that front. This increasingly is a story of opportunity versus execution, and Pinterest needs to make sure investors keep focusing on the former — and not the latter.
As of this writing, Vince Martin has no positions in any securities mentioned.