Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia initiated coverage on Facebook with a "buy" rating and a $46 price target, which would offer nearly 65% upside if Facebook were to price its IPO at the low end of its expected range, $28 per share. Bhatia believes that Facebook's IPO is worth the risk predicting that the social networker could be as disruptive as Google (GOOG).
Advertising is a $600 billion market, and as more advertising moves online (currently $68 billion is online), Bhatia believes Facebook is disrupting advertising. This, he says, is led by social media and Facebook's 900 million users, more than half of which use the service daily. Other factors include Facebook's ability to monetize mobile, its placement in China and the company's potential to grow average revenue per user.
"Together, Mobile and China could add $1.5B in incremental revenue and $600 million in incremental EBITDA [Earnings before interest, depreciation and amortization] by 2015," Bhatia wrote in his research note. "Additionally, the market for virtual/digital goods is expected to reach $14 billion by 2016, up from $9 billion in 2011 (CAGR of 9%), according to NPD In-Stat."Advertisers have had a hard time generating significant revenue from mobile as more users access the web and data from their smartphones and tablets. But the mobile advertising market is expected to have a 64% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2015, according to tech research firm IDC, reaching $18 billion. Facebook is poised to take advantage of this trend. According to the social networking giant's S-1, Facebook has 488 million users accessing the site through their mobile devices, but has not yet been able to generate "meaningful" revenue in this area, despite being the most downloaded app on Android and iPhone in January. "We see mobile monetization as a significant long-term growth opportunity for Facebook, but with some initial challenges," Bhatia wrote. Then there's Facebook's potential entry into China, where Renren (RENN) is the dominant social network. Bhatia notes that China accounts for almost a quarter of the world's Internet users, and if Facebook were able to access the market, it could add $400 million to $600 million in incremental revenue.
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