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Netflix's Accelerated Global Rollout Catches Wall Street Off Guard

Shares of the video streaming service rose as much as 19 percent in early trading on Wednesday.


Netflix’s faster-than-expected rollout in overseas markets took most analysts by surprise, setting off a flurry of price target increases on the stock.

Shares of the video streaming service, which reported stronger-than-expected quarterly results, rose as much as 19 percent in early trading on Wednesday.

The stock has been under pressure in recent months on fears of increased competition from Time Warner Inc’s HBO, Inc and Hulu, as well as on-demand offerings from pay TV providers.

At least 13 analysts raised their price targets on the stock, after the company said it would complete its expansion into around 200 countries within two years.

“In our view, this is aggressive but possible, with the rapid proliferation of connected devices,” BMO Capital Markets analyst Edward Williams wrote in a note.

“Perhaps more importantly, this signals the timing of when the heavy investment phase could end.”

Some analysts said the accelerated global rollout would boost the company’s profits in 2017 and beyond.

J.P. Morgan Securities was the most bullish, raising its price target by $61 to $511.
Netflix shares were up 16.6 percent at $406.8 in early trading on the Nasdaq.

The median price target on the stock is $450, according to Thomson Reuters data.
” … We believe Netflix is skillfully navigating the transition between slowing subscriber growth in the profitable U.S. segment and international expansion,” Stifel, Nicolaus & Co analyst Scott Devitt wrote in a note, raising his target to $500 from $380.

Netflix, which has a presence in about 50 countries, beat its own guidance by adding 4.3 million subscribers for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, helped by higher-than-expected interest overseas.

In the United States, Netflix pulled in a net 1.9 million streaming customers, down from 2.3 million a year earlier.

Netflix also said it would increase the percentage of content spending devoted to original series.

“We … believe a heavy slate of new originals should act as a tailwind,” J.P. Morgan analysts said.

Apart from new seasons of “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards,” the company is planning to release Tina Fey-created comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and Marvel’s superhero series “Daredevil” among others this year.

Excluding a 63-cent benefit from a tax accrual release related to resolution of a tax audit, Netflix earned 72 cents per share. Revenue rose to $1.48 billion from $1.18 billion.

Analysts had expected profit of 45 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters.

(By Abhirup Roy and Fareha Khan; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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