Snap's 110% moonshot this year still isn't enough to get Wall Street rooting for it

Evan SpiegelSnapchat CEO Evan Spiegel speaks onstage during 'Disrupting Information and Communication' at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 8, 2014 in San Francisco, California.Getty/Michael Kovac

  • Snap shares have more than doubled this year from their sub-$5 price last December.
  • Ahead of the Snapchat parent company's first-quarter earnings due out after Tuesday's closing bell, Wall Street analysts are telling clients things have gotten better - but not good enough.
  • Watch Snap trade live.

Snap shares have been through the ringer.

In the little over two years that Snap has been a public company, its stock has been in an almost constant freefall amid stiff social-media competition and a string of executive turnover - until last December, when shares bottomed out with the rest of the market. It has booked a meteoric 110% rise this year.

Now, ahead of the self-proclaimed camera company's first-quarter earnings report, due out after Tuesday's market close, analysts are telling clients that the picture looks stronger than previous quarters, but that there's still work to be done as far as solidifying a turnaround.

"Encouraging momentum but the comeback kid is not out of the woods yet," Jefferies analysts led by Brent Thill, who carry a "hold" rating and $11 price target, wrote to clients on Monday.

And JPMorgan analysts led by Doug Anmuth expressed a similar sentiment in their note to clients on Sunday, saying "things are getting better," while reiterating their "underweight" rating and $7 price target.

Anmuth and his team were particularly encouraged by what they view as Snap's management team becoming "operationally stronger," with the company trying to maintain the "increased discipline installed by short-lived CFO Tim Stone."

Stone's departure in January, the second by a Snap CFO in eight months, was seen as a significant loss for the company. It led to an immediate 10% drop in shares.

Read more: Snap's New Guard: Meet the new power players who help CEO Evan Spiegel run Snap Inc.

When Snap reports on Tuesday, analysts will be focusing on the number of daily active users, as well as the company's second-quarter guidance. In its last quarterly report, Snap reported a smaller-than-expected loss and better-than-expected revenue.

At least one firm was particularly optimistic heading into the report. Stephen Ju, an analyst at Credit Suisse, upped his price target on Monday from $10.50 to $13 a share, calling Snap a "scarce asset that offers advertisers access to a coveted younger demographic." Shares were trading just below $12 on Monday.

Wall Street is overwhelmingly cautious to bearish on the name. Of the analysts polled by Bloomberg, 25 have a "hold" rating, eight say "sell," and five suggest "buy." Analysts are expecting an adjusted loss of $0.12 a share on revenue of $307.4 billion.

Here's a snapshot of what other Wall Street analysts are saying about Snap's shares ahead of the report:

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Deutsche Bank: 'We are bullish on Snap for the quarter'

Deutsche Bank: 'We are bullish on Snap for the quarter'

Price target: $13

Rating: Hold

"On the call, the biggest thing we expect is color on the revamped Android app rollout timing and believe that as the app rolls out throughout the year, the company should benefit from increased engagement and incremental international DAUs (both of which should help overall DAU growth based on how the company defines a DAU)," analyst Lloyd Walmsley wrote in a note to clients last Thursday.

JPMorgan: 'While our Underweight rating on SNAP remains, we acknowledge that things are getting better'

JPMorgan: 'While our Underweight rating on SNAP remains, we acknowledge that things are getting better'

Price target: $7

Rating: Underweight

"While our Underweight rating on SNAP remains, we acknowledge that things are getting better," analysts led by Doug Anmuth wrote in a report to clients dated Sunday. "We believe SNAP's management team has become operationally stronger & the company is focused on maintaining the increased discipline installed by short-lived CFO Tim Stone, now incoming CFO at Ford Motor."

The analysts are encouraged by Snap's innovation, and are closely watching features of Snap's earnings report like daily active users and iOS trends, advertiser traction, cash burn rate, and second-quarter guidance.

RBC Capital Markets: 'We will be paying close attention to DAU Net Adds for evidence of a return to growth'

RBC Capital Markets: 'We will be paying close attention to DAU Net Adds for evidence of a return to growth'

Price target: $17

Rating: Outperform

The key factors to focus on, according to analysts led by Mark Mahaney, are the daily active users Snap added in the first-quarter, average revenue per user, and gross margin.

Mahaney and team expect Snap to have added 1 million daily active users in Q1 — in line with Wall Street's estimates — for a total of 187 million users.

Morgan Stanley: 'Better Execution, but Now Fundamentals Need to Be Stellar'

Morgan Stanley: 'Better Execution, but Now Fundamentals Need to Be Stellar'

Price target: $8.50

Rating: Underweight

"We have been wrong about SNAP year-to-date as the stock has risen ~115% (the best performer in our coverage) as its forward EV/revenue multiple has expanded by ~120%," analysts led by Brian Nowak wrote in a note to clients Tuesday.

But before the firm changes its tune, it's looking for "even stronger fundamental results" to drive meaningful outperformance from here. The analysts said they find better value in other technology names like Facebook and Alphabet.

Credit Suisse: 'Another Step in the Recovery with Release of Updated Android App'

Credit Suisse: 'Another Step in the Recovery with Release of Updated Android App'

Price target: $13 (upped from $10.50)

Rating: Outperform

"We maintain our Outperform rating based on the following factors: 1) potential for better-than-expected user growth with a revamped Android app, 2) advertising revenue growth acceleration by 2H19 (or earlier) as Snap laps the balance of the reserved/programmatic transition headwinds, 3) Snap is a scarce asset that offers advertisers access to a coveted younger demographic," analysts led by Stephen Ju wrote in a note to clients on Monday.

Jefferies: 'Encouraging momentum but the comeback kid is not out of the woods yet'

Jefferies: 'Encouraging momentum but the comeback kid is not out of the woods yet'

Price target: $11

Rating: Hold

"Snapchat has been the best performing social name in 1Q up 112% YTD on positive revisions and multiple expansion as Snap continues to mature as an organization, rolls out incremental improvements to its ecosystem, and finally releases its updated Android app to address user churn," analysts led by Brent Thill wrote in a note to clients on Monday.

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