Snap's (SNAP) - Get Reportnarrow focus of being a semiprivate messaging platform separates it from the social media pack, but if it can't prove that it has multidecade longevity, Snap could lose share to the next best social app, according to Samuel Kemp.
The Piper Jaffray analyst initiated coverage of the stock with a neutral rating and a $23 price target on Thursday.
Shares of Snap were up 4.4% near midday to $22.78. That's after gaining 7.1% on Wednesday, due in large part to Drexel Hamilton handing Snap a buy rating late Tuesday.
The company's Snapchat app shouldn't be compared to the flagship products of Facebook (FB) - Get Report or Twitter (TWTR) - Get Report , Kemp argued, because it's built on an entirely unique communications model that funnels interactions to a narrower number of relationships. As a result, the content is of higher quality than what's shared on its rivals massive, sprawling social networks, he added.
Snap will likely "live or die" by its success in the U.S. and Western Europe, not by gaining global dominance like its larger competitor Facebook, Kemp noted.
"While many associate Snapchat with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram ... we are convinced Snapchat's strategy is far more narrow than other platforms," Kemp said. "Snapchat's approach to social needs addresses a blind spot: instantaneous, direct photo/video messages carry authenticity and a higher density of positive, reinforcing interactions."
He added, "Therefore, we see Snapchat's user engagement as sustainable over the next 2-3 years in established markets because it is scratching a different itch than its competitors."
Other positives that Kemp highlighted include Snap's innovative vertical video advertising experience, which has the potential to chip away at traditional TV advertising, as well as its strong adoption among millennial users. Kemp said he would upgrade shares if Snap can show that its Discover platform is a driving force for user engagement or if media buyers determine that Snapchat is no longer allocated to experimental ad spending budgets.
If Snap sees solid daily active user growth in North America and Europe, as well as an increase in user monetization, the shares eventually could be worth between $27 and $31, Kemp said.
The analyst concluded he's remaining on the sidelines from Snap until the company can prove its ability to "fend off copy-cat competition."
"Given Snap has only recently begun to face direct product competition (Instagram Stories in Aug-16 and Messenger Day in Mar-17), we believe there is a lack of evidence suggesting user engagement will remain strong for a decade plus," Kemp said.
Wall Street has estimated that Snap could become profitable by the second half of 2018, but Kemp said he's expecting a "prolonged investment period," resulting in Snap achieving profitability closer to the second half of 2019.
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