Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) shares have made a dramatic comeback since late last year, running in the exact opposite direction of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). But that could be about to change, if bears are right about the stock. The bearish questions today have certainly had an impact on the stock so far, which fell as much as 2.5 percent.
This year to date, Netflix has been the best performing U.S. stock in the S&P 500. It’s also the second most expensive one, so bears are speculating that there’s a bubble surrounding the stock and it’s about to burst.
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Concerns surround Netflix
Linda Sandler of Bloomberg News reports that investors who take the time to look carefully at Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX)’s filings will see negative free cash flow, a sudden increase in liabilities because of the large number of new content it is paying for, and an increase in unpaid subscribers. At this point the greatest majority—26 out of 37—of analysts listed by Bloomberg and covering Netflix have either a Sell or Hold rating on the company’s stock.
Wedbush Securities managing director Michael Pachter told Bloomberg that investors are basically in love with online businesses and see Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) as being similar to Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN). He said if there’s growth, certain investors don’t worry too much about the companies’ finances. He called it “a weird bubble of Internet stocks.”
Investors to examine Netflix’s spending on content
One issue analysts have become worried about particularly is the amount Netflix is spending on exclusive and original content. The company’s “House of Cards” original series landed nine Emmy nominations last week. In all, Netflix shows received 14 Emmy nods, which may increase the chance that the company’s original series will be taken more seriously in the entertainment world.
Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) spends about $500 million on content each quarter, according to filings examined by Bloomberg. Those filings also show that the company’s last two quarters have had a deficit in free cash flow. Netflix has $5.7 billion in binding contracts for licensing streaming content, with $2.4 billion that must be paid in less than a year. Another $2.7 billion will have to be paid in one to three years.
Comparing the Netflix and Apple timelines
Adam Levine-Weinberg, a contributor to The Motley Fool, compares the bubble surrounding Netflix right now to the one that had been surrounding Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) until it began to deflate late last year.
He said the timelines of the two companies are different. Both Apple and Netflix have just a single signature product which is identified with it more than any of its other products. Netflix’s streaming video services were unveiled in 2007—the same year as Apple’s iPhone. It wasn’t until 2011 however, that both companies brought their signature products into wider release. According to Levine-Weinberg, his measurements show that Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) holds 34 percent of its market share, compared to Apple’s 39 percent of the U.S. smartphone market share.
However, he said the similarities in the two companies’ statistics are only important because Netflix’s streaming business is about a year behind the iPhone when it comes to market saturation. A year ago, shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) were skyrocketing ahead of the iPhone 5 launch. Right now Netflix shares are skyrocketing as investors hang their hopes on the promise of continuing success from the company’s original series.
He believes shares of Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) will fall as rapidly as Apple’s did when investors begin to realize how highly saturated the U.S. market is.