Snap stock rises after slew of new product announcements, but analysts remain wary

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Snapchat co-founders Bobby Murphy (l) and Evan Spiegel (c) ring the opening bell on March 2, 2017, as NYSE President Thomas Farley looks on.

Shares of Snap popped 5% Friday morning after unveiling a host of new features meant to keep users and advertisers engaged with its platform.

Snap added about $700 million to its market capitalization Friday, making it worth about $15.6 billion. Snap has nearly doubled its share price since the beginning of 2019, although shares are still down about 17% for the past 12 months.

Snap announced a new gaming platform at its partner summit Thursday, bulking up on advertising offerings to those looking to grab the attention of Snapchat’s Gen Z user base. Free-to-play games like Epic Game’s “Fortnite” and EA‘s “Apex Legends” have proved wildly popular among this demographic, and Snap already has planned two games in the same battle royale style.

The company also announced its upcoming lineup of original shows, a new augmented reality feature and the Snap Audience Network, which will sell ads that appear in third-party apps.

While investors seem to be pleased by Snap’s new offerings and revenue opportunities, several Wall Street analysts are remain reserved about its execution.

“These should create engagement opportunities, but material monetization of this new engagement is not as straightforward,” Morgan Stanley analysts wrote of Snap’s new offerings in a note on Friday. The firm maintained its rating on the stock, the equivalent of a sell, with a price target of $5.50.

The analysts were skeptical of Snap’s ability to execute on scalable, non-intrusive ad units for mobile gaming and third party networks. They also questioned Snap’s capacity to draw a large enough audience for its new original programming.

Stifel analysts were slightly more optimistic, giving the stock the equivalent of a neutral rating with a price target of $10.

“Overall, the announcements highlight Snap’s continued ability to develop truly innovative experiences for its users / partners despite a slimmed-down R&D budget in recent quarters,” the analysts wrote in a note Friday. “As its competitors are being pressured to reign in functionality due to privacy concerns, Snap’s privacy-centric approach could lead to developers investing more deeply in the platform. Monetization of games and off-platform usage also represent potential incremental monetization opportunities for Snap.”

The Stifel analysts see potential in the Snap Audience Network. Snap could potentially gain advertising dollars from agencies “weary of how much they spend on Google and Facebook today,” according to the analysts.

JMP analysts also gave Snap the equivalent of a neutral rating without listing a price target. While largely positive on Snap’s new announcements and the opportunities to bring in ad dollars, the analysts said they are still focused on other pressing issues at the company.

“[T]he risk/reward remains balanced, at least until we can see traction with the Android rebuild, a ramp in advertiser demand, and improving overall profitability,” they wrote.

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