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Apple Watching Netflix, Hoping Stock Falls to $300

Stocks in this article: NFLX AAPL AMZN CMCSA TWC GOOG

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The bottom continues to fall out of Netflix (NFLX). With Friday's close of $337.31, the shares are now down 8% year to date and are off more than 26% from their 52-week high of $458.

At one point it was inconceivable to suggest that Netflix would trade at a price of $300, much less predict $300 as a possible "bottom." Today it's a matter of "when" not "if."

With Wall Street's quarter-to-quarter obsession with growth, Netflix has fallen victim to an environment that Apple (AAPL) knows all too well; "all good things must come to an end." It sounds overly dramatic, I know. But drama is Netflix's bread and butter.

With Amazon's (AMZN) new Fire TV streaming device, along with Apple's new streaming deal with Comcast (CMCSA), Netflix CEO Reed Hasting has to figure out a way to stop this bleeding before his company becomes a comedy -- or worse, a tragedy.

Netflix investors are anxious. They want this market cap hemorrhaging to stop. But investors shouldn't blame Hasting for this.

Back in October, in a letter, Hastings warned investors that Netflix stock had become (in manner of speaking) a bubble. This was after the stock had surged roughly 400% in the preceding 12 months.

Beyond Netflix's own impressive performance, billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn has been a major catalyst in helping drive Netflix stock higher. Icahn took a 10% stake in the company 18 months ago at around $58 per share. It was valued at $323 million.

In Hasting's October letter, which was sent to investors following the company's third-quarter results, Hastings said, "We had solid results compounded by momentum-investor-fueled euphoria. Some of the euphoria today feels like 2003."

Recall, Netflix went public in 2003. The stock soared over 440% from below $5 per share to more than $27. Heeding the warning of Hastings, Icahn didn't waste any time selling almost half of his shares worth an estimated $1 billion. He then said, it was "time to take some chips off the table." Icahn still holds about 2.6 million shares.

Since then, Icahn has doubled down on his position in Apple. As Netflix's death spiral continues, the company's survival hinges on one thing and one thing only - an Apple acquisition. It's time for Apple to make the call to Hastings and seal the deal. And as Netflix shares move closer to $300 the suspense with Apple heightens.

We now know Apple has a television script. It was never a secret. With Netflix' existing 44 million subscriber base, along with its popular brand, Apple can take over a growing business and fulfill its promise of re-inventing television.

Netflix has ambitions of going toe-to-toe with HBO. Hasting even called HBO it's prime competitor. Well, Apple's deal with Comcast changes things a bit. Comcast, through its acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC), now has an interest in preserving HBO's popularity. With Apple in the fold, Comcast now has no need to offer Netflix as a premium add-on.

The only question for Apple is the price. How much it would take to make a deal happen. Last week I suggested $28 billion, given Netflix's (then) $22 billion market cap. Today, that market cap has shrunk by $2 billion, and it's still falling. Another $2 billion decline would put the stock at around $300 per share. Apple would save $5 billion to buy Netflix, assuming it offers a premium of 30%.

With sharks in the waters like Hulu, Amazon and Comcast's own HBOGo, Apple will pick off Netflix and immediately put out Amazon's Fire and dethrone Google's (GOOG) YouTube. They are all coming after Netflix's customer base. Hasting is in no position to bargain with Apple. His company's life depends on it.

At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL and held no position in any of the other stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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