Snapchat shares downgraded by Morgan Stanley, a rare rebuke by a firm that helped bring it public

Evan Spiegel, co-founder and CEO of Snapchat

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Evan Spiegel, co-founder and CEO of Snapchat

Morgan Stanley analysts downgraded Snap on Tuesday, a day after the shares fell below their IPO price of $17.

This is particularly insulting because Morgan Stanley took the Snapchat parent public, and therefore priced the IPO at $17 a share. The analysts are separate from the underwriters, but it still creates an awkward appearance.

Shares of social media company fell 4 percent to $16.29 in premarket trading after the call. A team lead by analyst Brian Nowak downgraded the stock to equal weight from overweight and slashed their price target to $16 from $28.

“SNAP’s ad product is not evolving/improving as quickly as we expected and Instagram competition is increasing,” Nowak said in a note to investors.

“We have been wrong about SNAP’s ability to innovate and improve its ad product this year (improving scalability, targeting, measurability, etc.) and user monetization as it works to move beyond ‘experimental’ ad budgets into larger branded and direct response ad allocations.”

These are the same concerns that caused Snap shares to close at $16.99 on Monday. The shares reached a high of $29.44 a day after its March 2nd debut but have been under pressure ever since.

The research and investment banking arms of all major Wall Street banks are technically separate units and barred from working together. One can even argue the negative call Tuesday is how independent research on Wall Street is supposed to work.

Still, it’s rare to see the research unit of an underwriter firm throw the towel this early after an IPO.

Snap has a very negative Wall Street outlook for such a young stock. Eighteen analysts call it hold or a sell and 11 recommend buying the stock, according to TipRanks.com.

With reporting by Michael Bloom

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