Facebook: A Winning Top Social Pick

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) shares were on a nice 3% climb yesterday after CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild posted another strong quarterly showing. With its second quarter results revealing this tech titan train continues to steam right along the tracks, with compelling catalysts ahead in both the short-term as well as down the line, top analyst Brian Fitzgerald at Jefferies chimes in with a highly confident note on Facebook’s prospects.

On the heels of the print that glinted with particular strength in video, the analyst reiterates a Buy rating on Facebook stock while boosting the price target from $192 to $215, which represents 27% increase from where the stock is currently trading.

Fitzgerald highlights, “FB continues to deliver great top line growth rates and opex controls as it invests for both the near and long term. We’re focused on the growth in video as FB expands its video offerings to grow user engagement across its platforms. Management tightened its OPEX guide which we believe is still conservative given prior conservatism.”

Moreover, “Facebook is the best positioned social platform today connecting 2B+ users worldwide to nearly every advertiser. Video across both Facebook & Instagram are the areas to watch as digital video consumption continues to take share from nearly every other form of media consumption,” elaborates the analyst, who likewise poses, “We think there is upside to both ARPU & MAUs driven by increasing engagement across all platforms & the opportunity to grow its digital video advertising business (did we mention FB has yet to try to monetize its 2 other 1B+ messaging platforms?).”

True, this is a titan “still in a heavy investment mode,” but ultimately, Fitzgerald believes Zuckerberg’s investment strategies are all savvy and “favorable for FB as it continues to position itself to win in the near term and long run;” particularly in a future where spaces like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) are heating up the tech game.

Brian Fitzgerald has a very good TipRanks score with a 78% success rate and a high ranking of #19 out of 4,160 analysts. Fitzgerald yields 22.6% in his annual returns. When recommending FB, Fitzgerald earns 24.7% in average profits on the stock.

TipRanks analytics demonstrate FB as a Strong Buy. Out of 36 analysts polled by TipRanks in the last 3 months, 32 are bullish on Facebook stock, 3 remain sidelined, and 1 is bearish on the stock. With a return potential of nearly 8%, the stock’s consensus target price stands at $183.97.

Twitter’s Ghost of User Growth Has Come Back to Haunt

Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) investors were on quite a mad dash yesterday after the social media giant failed to deliver on monthly active user (MAU) growth expectations, with shares promptly collapsing 14% in the second-quarter earnings aftermath.

Top analyst Victor Anthony continues to be bearish on the platform between the rampant return of user growth challenges nipping once again at Twitter’s heels coupled with the plague of lack of visibility. However, the analyst recognizes more room to hope for this platform to rebound on back of better product moves and would like to see reason to change his negative perspective.

Therefore, the analyst reiterates a Sell rating on TWTR while slightly hiking the price target from $12 to $13, which implies a 22% downside from where the shares last closed.

From a positive perspective, the giant did outclass Anthony’s expectations as well as consensus in terms of revenues and adjusted EBITDA, which he attributes to improved O&O ad, Data Licensing revenues, as well as cost controls. While daily active user growth (DAU) growth did wane from 14% last quarter to 12% by second quarter, the analyst notes the dip did not stray from double digits, at least.

For the second quarter, Twitter handed in $573.8 million in revenue, signifying a 4.7% year-over-year pullback in growth- but managed to come in 5% ahead of the analyst’s projection of $544.9 million. Advertising revenue hit an 8.5% year-over-year decline to $489.1 million, but likewise outperformed the analyst’s expectations of $466.7 million by 5%. Additionally, Data Licensing revenue of $84.7 million hit 8% over the analyst’s expectations calling for $78.2 million. Adjusted EBITDA of $177.9 million actually signifies 1.9% in year-over-year growth of $177.9 million with a 31% margin, reaching 46% beyond the analyst’s estimate of $121 million and 43% past consensus.

MAUs rose 5% year-over-year to 328 million with U.S. MAUs rising 3% year-over-year to 68 million- marking a 2 million sequential pullback, and international MAUs escalated 5% year-over-year to 260 million- a 1 million rise. So what’s the issue? Why are investors fleeing the scene and why is Anthony left sounding the alarm on this social giant?

While MAU softness can stem from seasonality, user growth looms as a greater problem at hand for Twitter, explains Anthony, asserting, “However, Twitter cautioned investors to not expect an improving 2H17 ad growth trend due to $75M of headwinds tied to de-emphasized revenue products. User growth has returned as an issue for Twitter. That, combined with low visibility into when Twitter will resume O&O advertising revenue growth will weigh on the shares for sometime. We are rooting for Twitter as a business due to the significant product improvements and its place in the world as an effective utility. However, we continue to see rising competition for advertising dollars from other social media companies making it difficult for Twitter to resume revenue growth in the near future. Facebook and Google siphoned away an incremental $12.5B of ad dollars away from the industry in 1H17, and we expect that trend to continue.”

Keep in mind that this is the same quarter that rival Facebook racked up 70 million more MAUs. While the analyst agrees he “could be wrong” in terms of acquisition interest coming back; programmatic efforts restarting ad growth sooner than he believes; users losing shiny new interest in competitor platforms returning to the Twitter-sphere; and “Product launches, including live events and live video, could prove more successful than we envision at driving usage, and advertisers could redirect budgets to Twitter.” However, even though the analyst has just slightly upped his price target on the company, he remains bearish amid lackluster ad growth trends, waiting for Twitter to show him its product upgrades will stand to matter.

According to TipRanks, which measures analysts’ and bloggers’ success rate based on how their calls perform, top five-star analyst Victor Anthony has achieved a high ranking of #113 out of 4,160 analysts. Anthony has a 65% success rate and realizes 13.7% in his yearly returns. However, when recommending TWTR, Anthony forfeits 8.1% in average profits on the stock.

TipRanks analytics showcase TWTR as a Hold. Based on 16 analysts polled by TipRanks in the last 3 months, 2 rate a Buy on Twitter stock, 10 maintain a Hold, while 4 issue a Sell. The 12-month average price target stands at $16.09, marking a 4% downside from where the stock is currently trading.

PayPal Benefits from Robust Customer Growth-Engagement Double Hitter

Paypal Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:PYPL) may still have top analyst Michael Graham at Canaccord weighing in on the online payment giant from the sidelines, he is certainly more optimistic after once again a quarter of account growth and total payment volume (TPV) came in strong.

As such, the analyst reiterates a Hold rating on the stock while upping the price target from $45 to $55, which represents a close to 9% decrease from where the shares last closed.

Even the PayPal team is hinting at signs of greater confidence, raising guidance for the year to a range of $12.8 billion to $12.9 billion, thanks to stellar account growth and forward engagement momentum. This is a quarter where partnership collaborations led the giant to collect a meaningful 6.5 million account additions, hitting a total base of now 210 million, with One Touch adoption rates still soaring on back of 60 million consumer accounts and 5.5 million merchants using the feature.

For 2017, the analyst has subsequently increased his EPS forecast from $1.78 to $1.84 and for 2018, the analyst has bumped up his EPS projection from $2.02 to $2.18.

Graham notes, “Customer engagement is also impressive as payment transactions per active account expanded to 32.3 in Q2, up from 29.3 last year and up from 31.8 in Q1. Management also commented that customer choice initiatives, signified by additional partnerships, are driving down churn rates.”

Overall, “PayPal reported solid Q2 results, with another good quarter for account growth and TPV. PYPL stock has had a strong year, up more than 48% YTD and performing every bit as well as other large (FANG) stocks in our Internet universe. Much of this move has been multiple expansion, but this guidance raise should help continue to support positive sentiment. Acknowledging that we missed this move in the stock, we see a more full valuation and a balance of factors going forward. Account growth and engagement for core PayPal still seem strong, but gross margin contraction and long-term competitive risks are still a concern even as partnership momentum ramps up,” contends Graham, encouraged, but keeping both eyes open for now.

As usual, we like to include the analyst’s track record when reporting on new analyst notes to give a perspective on the effect it has on stock performance. According to TipRanks, top five-star analyst Michael Graham has maintained a high ranking of #80 out of 4,160 analysts. Graham upholds a 63% success rate and garners 14.7% in his yearly returns. When suggesting PYPL, Graham gains 9.8% in average profits on the stock.

TipRanks analytics indicate PYPL as a Strong Buy. Out of 28 analysts polled by TipRanks in the last 3 months, 23 are bullish on Paypal stock while 5 remain sidelined. With a return potential of 3%, the stock’s consensus target price stands at $62.00.