Updated from 3:06 p.m. EDT
continued to be buffeted by external events Friday, losing more than 12% after reports surfaced that one of its venture investors cashed out some shares.
The stock was recently down $2.74, or 12.5%, to $19.18. The shares began the week at $23.61 and have been steadily falling, first when
lowered its price on rent-by-mail DVDs, and now on news that a large holder unloaded about 2.3 million shares of the company over the last few months.
According to a research note by U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, the sellers are affiliates of the French luxury goods maker
, which provided seed money to Netflix.
"While LVMH was classified as an 'insider' across various wire reports, LVMH is not on the Netflix board and has no affiliation, other than the shares owned," the brokerage wrote. "We note that LVMH was a venture investor, and believe the investment was part of a broader Internet investment strategy, rather than specifically being strategic to either Netflix or LVMH." LVMH's controlling shareholder, Bernard Arnault, was reported to have invested $30 million in Netflix in 2000 while it was still a private company.
A company spokeswoman confirmed Piper Jaffray's account, and also asserted that the sale was being misinterpreted. She wouldn't comment on market movement but when asked whether anything had changed in the company's fundamentals, said "no."
Piper Jaffray thinks the shares are cheap now. "We would be opportunistic buyers of Netflix on the weakness, as the company's business fundamentals remain compelling and we expect the growth momentum to its subscriber base over the next couple of months to remain strong."