BMO Capital Markets' Daniel Salmon, head of media and internet equity research, said in a note on Thursday evening that presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren's proposals to break up Big Tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook (FB) , Alphabet (GOOGL) and Apple (AAPL) prompted the move.
"The government must break up monopolies and promote competitive markets," Warren has said.
Warren's calls to split up these companies and unwind mergers made in the past would require a major expansion of government powers, and Republicans still hold the majority in the Senate. But Salmon is taking the threat seriously. "We continue to seek out how the legal path might progress for these types of actions, but in the short term, we think it's appropriate to move NFLX to Top Pick and Amazon to number two in our Large Cap pecking order," he wrote.
Netflix's main competition comes from players like Disney (DIS) , which owns part of Hulu and will launch its own platform; Google's YouTube; and of course Amazon's streaming service. But Salmon's argument is that for investors looking at the major tech companies should favor Netflix, which doesn't have nearly the same level of regulatory risk in his opinion.
The regulatory issue is "increasingly clouding the fundamental thesis for Amazon," Salmon said. "Netflix, on the other hand, faces little to no regulatory risk, in our view; thus, we are more comfortable with it in the Top Pick slot at the moment, and Amazon moves down slightly to number two."
But Zev Fima, analyst at Jim Cramer's Action Alerts Plus, which owns Amazon, isn't confident enough in Netflix to agree with Salmon's move. "I would have to disagree simply because I don't think Netflix's moats are as deep as many claim," Fima said. "The competition is on the rise with everyone from AT&T to Apple, Amazon, Disney, Comcast and more going after original content and in my mind, as long as you have the budget, you can get the content. And all of these competitors have VERY deep pockets and in some cases a much better balance sheet than Netflix."
Salmon has a $440 per share price target on Netflix, representing 22% upside from the stock's current level. His price target on Amazon of $2,250 represents 32% upside from its current level.
Every analyst polled by FactSet has either a buy rating or outperform rating on Amazon currently.
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