Snap spikes after Wall Street's most bearish analyst becomes its most bullish

Evan Spiegel, Co-Founder and CEO of Snap, speaks at the New York Times DealBook conference on November 1, 2018 in New York City.Snap CEO Evan SpiegelStephanie Keith/Getty Images

  • Snap shares were up more than 6% early Thursday on the back of an upgrade from BTIG's Rich Greenfield, a long-time bear.
  • Greenfield raised his rating to "buy" and his price target to $15 -nearly 50% above where shares settled Wednesday.
  • Greenfield previously had a Wall-Street low price target of $5 - now he has the highest.
  • Watch Snap trade live.

Long-time Snap bear Rich Greenfield flipped from being Wall Street's most bearish Snap analyst to its most bullish. The BTIG analyst raised his recommendation to "buy" and his price target from $5 to a street high $15, sending shares up 6% early Thursday.

"Your initial reaction is likely why now and what changed, as virtually everything that could go wrong for Snapchat over the past couple years since going public has gone wrong... and, worse yet, Snapchat rushed out a major update rather than testing and learning, which confused and infuriated their most valuable asset, their users," Greenfield wrote.

"Given that Snapchat's core use case is communications, management's wide array of missteps over the past two years has not led to a collapse of users or usage," he continued. "Snapchat is 'how' this generation of users communicates making it difficult to leave even if users are frustrated."

Here are the five reasons Greenfield gave for his upgrade:

  1. Performance advertising growth quickened in the fourth quarter of 2018.
  2. A continued transition from "clickbait" influencer content to premium publisher content.
  3. The Snapchat app has a sticky user base among the sub-30 demographic, despite continued management missteps.
  4. Testing of the newly built Android platform is positive, correcting user-experience problems.
  5. Improved management morale with a number of new hires and clearer strategic direction.

Greenfield's upgrade was also joined by Jeffries analyst Brent Thill, who raised his price target from $9 to $11.

The upgrades follow a period of significant volatility for Snap, which saw more than 10 direct reports to CEO Evan Spiegel leave the company over an 18-month period. The departures, which included two CFOs in 8 months, shook investors' confidence in the company, and contributed to a 64% plunge in its share price. The continued financial pressure on the company also forced it to replace cash bonuses with share-based compensation.

In its most recent earnings report, Snap said revenue jumped 43% year-over-year in 2018 to $1.2 billion. The company reported continued losses in net income, but detailed year-over-year improvements in cash flow and adjusted EBITDA. Revenue is expected to climb 30% to $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2019 according to analyst surveyed by Bloomberg.

Snap was up 94% this year, including Thursday's move.

SNAP stock chartBusiness Insider

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