Facebook Stock Slumps As Analysts Adjust Price Targets Both Ways

Facebook Stock Slumps As Analysts Adjust Price Targets Both Ways

Facebook stock is seeing lots of action today as more than 45 million shares have already changed hands as of 1 p.m. Eastern, compared to the average daily volume of 16.84 million shares. Investors have been unloading them even though the social network delivered yet another strong quarter as management’s comments regarding future growth were cautionary.

Some analysts cut their price targets for Facebook stock, while others raised their targets. The shares slumped by as much as 5.63% to $120 during regular trading hours on Thursday as Wall Street digested last night’s earnings report.

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Facebook stock target cut for cautionary comments

BMO Capital Markets analyst Daniel Salmon slashed his price target for Facebook stock from $145 to $125 due to the company’s cautionary tone on 2017. The social network reported non-GAAP earnings of $1.09 per share, handily beating Wall Street’s estimate of 97 cents per share. Total revenue came in at $7.01 billion, also beating the consensus of $6.93 billion, while adjusted EBITDA amounted to $4.53 billion, ahead of consensus at $4.24 billion.

Wall Street is clearly more concerned about Facebook’s outlook, however, as the company continues to expect significant growth in expenses. Management expects GAAP expenses to grow 30% to 35% and non-GAAP expenses to rise 40% to 45%. They also predict that ad revenue growth will decelerate in 2017 as capital expenditures, engineering headcount and content spending in virtual reality continue to rise.

Facebook punished for investing more… like Amazon

Recall that Facebook isn’t the only big company to get flak for raising expenses right now. The same thing happened to Amazon as well as investors sent shares lower for the increased investments, which is a repeat of a similar situation that has happened multiple times. Some analysts reminded investors that Amazon has done this before and brought strong results because of the increased investors, and now Axiom analyst Victor Anthony is doing the same for Facebook.

He noted that the social network raised expenses in the third quarter of 2014 when it guided for a 50% to 70% increase in non-GAAP expenses in 2015, and the actual growth ended up being about 50%. He expects a similar situation this time around and is looking for 53% growth in expenses in 2017. He notes that past investments have enabled the social network to build a “robust platform that should surpass 2B users next year” and advised investors to buy Facebook stock on the pullback.

Facebook stock target raised for better operating leverage

Citi analyst Mark May moved his target for Facebook stock in the opposite direction, raising it from $158 to $162 per share. In addition to the beats on key financial metrics, he notes that the social network’s engagement metrics improved as well. Facebook had 1.79 billion monthly active users, compared to his estimate of 1.77 billion, and 1.18 billion daily users, versus his 1.17 billion estimate. He believes the sequential increase in the daily to monthly active user ratio in all regions should ease some of the concerns about competition.

He believes that management’s cautionary comments about ad revenue growth slowing were already baked into expectations. He raised his target because he sees the social network’s operating leverage as improving.

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