Facebook Inc Stock Target Cut, Analysts Warn That Slower Ad Growth Is Coming

Facebook Inc Stock Target Cut, Analysts Warn That Slower Ad Growth Is Coming

Facebook stock tumbled on Monday following concerns that that the fake news being circulated on the social network had something to do with the results of the U.S. election, but it was quick to bounce back on Tuesday. Still, Facebook stock remains below where it was trading on Friday, and at least one analyst has cut his price target. Meanwhile another warns that the slowdown in ad load growth the company has been talking up for some time will happen… even though it seems like we’ve been hearing that it will but not seeing it happen.

Slowdown in ad load growth is truly coming to Facebook

FBN Securities analyst Shebly Seyrafi said in a research note date Nov. 14 that he truly believes that Facebook’s ad load growth will slow down in the first fiscal quarter. He believes that slowing ad load growth next year is investors’ top concern for Facebook, even over difficult comparisons, competition from Snapchat and fallout from the fake news related to the election.

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He projects that Facebook’s ad revenue growth will decelerate by more than 20 percentage points in fiscal 2017 and sees even more deceleration catalysts in the first quarter than in the current quarter. His fourth quarter checks actually suggest room for upside to his estimates for ad prices because the checks suggest that eCPM growth will actually accelerate in the fourth quarter from the 6% year over year growth recorded in the third quarter.

Seyrafi believes the elections boosted engagement on Facebook and also growth in impressions in the fourth quarter. In the first quarter, however, the social network will see no such benefit from the elections.

Investors may be taken by surprise

He notes that Facebook’s ad revenue has grown more than 50% year over year growth in ad revenue for the last four consecutive quarters. Additionally, the company came out ahead of consensus estimates in each of the last four quarters, averaging a beat of 7 percentage points in year over year growth. As a result, he thinks some investors may be caught by surprise when there is a sudden switch.

For example, he believes some investors believe Facebook might beat the 45% year over year growth consensus is looking for in the fourth quarter and the 42% growth that’s being projected for the first quarter. He estimates that some investors are looking for growth of as much as 52% for the fourth quarter and 49% for the first quarter, but he believes such beats are unlikely because of the expected deceleration in ad load. Another contributing factor is decelerating user engagement, because he posits that users will be less engaged following the elections.

Nonetheless, he still sees Facebook stock is “quite attractive at current levels, especially after the sell-off post the report.” However, he warns that it’s unclear how investors will react if Facebook doesn’t outperform as much as they expect.

MKM cuts Facebook stock price target

MKM Partners analyst Rob Sanderson trimmed his price target for Facebook stock in his own report dated Nov. 14. He maintains his Buy rating but cut his target from $165 to $150 per share. However, after running a comparison with Alphabet, he does think the compression in P/E multiple is a bit premature, but he lowered his price target for the social network’s stock anyway.

He called it “remarkable” that Facebook’s ad business is at a $27 billion run rate and still growing at 59%, noting that Google’s growth was about 30% when it was at the same revenue levels. He adds that Facebook’s forward P/E/ multiple has plunged to an all-time low of 22 times when its revenue grew 56% in the last quarter. Google’s multiple didn’t approach 20 times until its revenue growth was down to 30% and the world was heading for a recession.

Shares of Facebook stock jumped by as much as 2.22% to $117.64 during regular trading hours on Tuesday.

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Michelle Jones is editor-in-chief for ValueWalk.com and has been with the site since 2012. Previously, she was a television news producer for eight years. She produced the morning news programs for the NBC affiliates in Evansville, Indiana and Huntsville, Alabama and spent a short time at the CBS affiliate in Huntsville. She has experience as a writer and public relations expert for a wide variety of businesses. Email her at [email protected]
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