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Netflix Stock Plunges As Soft Subscriber Outlook Clouds Q4 Earnings

Netflix said it sees subscriber growth slowing to 2.5 million in the current quarter, sending shares sharply lower in after-hours trading.

Updated at 5:20 pm EST

Netflix  (NFLX) - Get Netflix, Inc. Report posted stronger-than-expected fourth quarter earnings Thursday, but forecast soft subscriber growth for the first three months of the year amid what it called "Covid overhang" in key overseas markets.

Netflix said earnings for the three months ending in December were pegged at $1.15 per share, down 3.3% from the same period last year but firmly ahead of the Street consensus forecast of 82 cents per share. Group revenues, Netflix said, came in at $7.709 billion, up 16% from last year but just shy of analysts' estimates of a $7.71 billion tally.

Netflix said it added 8.28 million subscribers over the period, missing the Street estimate of 8.4 million, and taking the overall total to 222 million. The company said paid net additions for the first three months of the year would come in at 2.5 million, compared to a market forecast of 5.9 million. 

North American (U.S. and Canada) subs were up 33.3% to 1.2 million and up 30% in the Asia-Pacific region to 2.6 million. In Europe, subscriber additions grew by 28.5% to 4.5 million, while in Latin America the growth rate was 20%.

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"Even in a world of uncertainty and increasing competition, we’re optimistic about our long-term growth prospects as streaming supplants linear entertainment around the world," Netflix said in a statement. "We're continually improving Netflix so that we can please our members, grow our share of leisure time and lead in this transition."

"In addition, while retention and engagement remain healthy, acquisition growth has not yet re-accelerated to pre-Covid levels," the company added. "We think this may be due to several factors including the ongoing Covid overhang and macro-economic hardship in several parts of the world like LATAM."  

Netflix shares were marked 19.1% lower in after-hours trading immediately following the earnings release to indicate a Friday opening bell price of $411.35 each, the lowest since June of 2020.

In terms of revenues, Netflix said it sees a top line of $7.9 billion, with net income in the region of $1.304 billion, translating into earnings of $2.86 per share.

Netflix said it finished the fourth quarter with gross debt of $15.5 billion, with negative cash flow of $596 million.