Netflix forecast misses Wall Street view, shares dip

 Netflix forecast misses Wall Street view, shares dip

By Lisa Richwine and Vibhuti Sharma

(Reuters) - Netflix Inc reported revenue and a first-quarter forecast slightly below Wall Street estimates on Thursday, sending shares of the world's largest streaming service down 4 percent in after-hours trading.

The company released its massively popular dystopian movie "Bird Box" late in the fourth quarter, which helped attract a record 8.8 million new paid streaming customers in the period, but investors appear to have factored that into their valuation, pushing Netflix shares up more than 50 percent since late December.

"Results won't push its stock higher from here, with most of the good news already priced in after a massive rally earlier this month," said Investing.com senior analyst Haris Anwar.

Netflix reported revenue of $4.19 billion for the quarter that ended in December, slightly below the $4.21 billion that Wall Street analysts had forecast, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

It forecast first-quarter revenue of $4.49 billion, slightly behind analysts' average estimate of $4.61 billion. It sees net income of $253 million for the first quarter, well below analysts' average estimate of $371 million.

Investors may have been hoping for more after Netflix announced a price hike for U.S. subscribers earlier this week, usually a sign that demand is strong.

Wall Street has come to expect fast-growing Netflix to handily beat forecasts. Without a blowout quarter or ambitious forecast, shares fell 4 percent in after-hours trading to $339.40.

The company has staked its future on global expansion and creating original TV shows and movies to hook new customers and keep them paying monthly subscription fees as current TV and movie suppliers create rival services, such as Walt Disney Co .

Netflix said its programming was so popular it now accounts for about 10 percent of television screen time in the United States. Total paid streaming subscribers reached 139 million worldwide.

The company acknowledged it faces a broad range of competitors. "We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO," the earnings report said, referring to the popular video game and the premium cable network now owned by AT&T Inc .

"Bird Box" became a cultural sensation after its Dec. 21 release on Netflix. The company estimated that 80 million households will have watched the movie starring Sandra Bullock in its first four weeks, sparking a viral reaction online.

The buzz came during the Christmas holiday season, when sales of phones and internet-connected TVs typically lift Netflix subscriptions.

Netflix added an unprecedented 781 hours of U.S. original programming in the United States during the quarter, according to Cowen & Co analysts, including drama series "Narcos: Mexico" and holiday films such as "The Christmas Chronicles."

The blitz of original content comes as Disney has stopped supplying new movies to Netflix in order to stock its own streaming service planned for later this year. AT&T Inc and Comcast Corp also have digital offerings in the works.

Netflix reported earnings of 30 cents per share for the quarter, lower than a year earlier due to higher spending, but above Wall Street analysts' average estimate of 24 cents, according to Refinitiv.

Earlier this week, Netflix announced it was raising prices for U.S. customers by $1 to $2 per month to help fund its aggressive expansion and offset mounting debt.

The company said on Thursday it would "continue to finance our working capital needs through the high-yield market" for as long its marginal after-tax cost of debt is lower than the cost of equity.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Bill Rigby)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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Updated Date: Jan 18, 2019 07:05:11 IST