Snap Inc. (SNAP) shares traded firmly higher Tuesday, Dec. 5, after two investment banks lifted their recommendations on the social media app as it goes head-to-head with Facebook Inc. (FB) in the youth messaging market.
Snap rose 5.3% in early trading to $14.29, its highest level in nearly a month.
The moves followed an upgrade from Jefferies, which raised its recommendation on the messaging app maker to "buy" from "hold," and a similar endorsement from Barclays, which raised the Venice, Calif.-based group to "overweight" with a price target of $18 a share, up from a previous forecast of $11.
In fact, Barclays analyst Ross Sandler said now may be a "good time" to start accumulating shares," noting that the group may start hitting -- or beating -- consensus revenue estimates into the new year. He also suggested the recent narrative that Facebook is "killing" Snap may be starting to reverse. "In short, we think the worst is behind SNAP and company is likely to get back on track in 2018," Sandler wrote.
Facebook made further inroads into Snap's youth-market territory Monday, Dec. 4, with news it would launch a messaging app aimed at children under the age of 12 who can't legally set up their own page on the social media giant. With no ads and no automatic conversion to Facebook's main page, the company is hoping to engender a "safe space" for kids with the hope that they'll migrate to Facebook-owned properties -- such as Instagram -- when they hit their teens.
That could prove an enormous challenge for Snap, whose messaging app is hugely popular with younger users but has nonetheless struggled to generate a profitable business model.
Those concerns have continued to weigh on Snap shares, which failed to find support at the $15 level even after China's Tencent Holdings Ltd. (TCEHY) revealed last month that it built a 10% stake
Tencent, which owns China's biggest social media app WeChat, told Snap that it purchased around 145.78 million non-voting Snap shares on the open market, taking its overall stake to the 10% threshold that requires formal notification.
The investment announcement came just hours after Snap revealed weaker-than-expected third-quarter earnings and vowed to re-design its flagship messaging app.
Snap posted a loss of 14 cents a share in the three months ended in September while revenue, the bulk of which come from selling ads, did rise 61% to $208 million, but even that figure trailed analysts' estimates of $237 million. Revenue per user, a key metric for the group, increased to $1.17 but again fell shy of the Wall Street consensus of $1.30.
The dispiriting numbers -- not to mention the stock's 48% decline since its post-IPO peak -- were not lost on the company's founders, including Evan Spiegel, who essentially pledged a hard re-set of the hard-to-use app which is slowly losing the hold it once had on the imagination of users and investors alike.
"The one thing that we have heard over the years is that Snapchat is difficult to understand or hard to use, and our team has been working on responding to this feedback," Spiegel told investors on a conference call late Tuesday. "As a result, we are currently redesigning our application to make it easier to use."
"There is a strong likelihood that the redesign of our application will be disruptive to our business in the short term, and we don't yet know how the behavior of our community will change when they begin to use our updated application," he added. "We're willing to take that risk for what we believe are substantial long-term benefits to our business."
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