One of Tesla’s most notorious short-sellers has Netflix stock in his sights.
Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn is bearish on Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), boasting that the streaming giant’s “open-ended growth story” is coming to an end . He warns that the stock is about to suffer a reckoning.
But after already suffering a brutal loss during Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) historic short squeeze, the hedge fund manager may only be setting himself up for more embarrassment.
Here are three reasons why Greenlight will regret that Netflix short.
Einhorn argues stiff competition in the streaming war will constrain Netflix’s growth prospects. But if its recent earnings report (PDF) is anything to go by, growth may slow a bit – but the credits won’t roll anytime soon.
Even after the entry of Disney+ and Apple TV+ in Q4, Netflix still managed single-digit revenue and subscriber growth in the U.S. Internationally, the number of subscribers expanded 9% quarter-on-quarter.
Altogether, Netflix added 8.8 million subscribers year-over-year – a rise of 20% – against Wall Street estimates of 7.9 million.
Foreign markets remain Netflix’s best bets for expansion, but it has wiggle room to grow domestically. Its cheapest plan costs $8.99 per month, while Disney+ and Apple TV+ cost $6.99 and $4.99, respectively.
Investors wouldn’t like it, but plunging into a price war could help Netflix expand its market share.
Einhorn further claims that Netflix’s original content lacks “staying power.” He says Netflix’s in-house library can’t offset the exodus of binge-friendly shows like The Office and Friends, which are heading to NBCUniversal’s Peacock and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max services, respectively.
The loss of The Office and Friends will deal a blow to Netflix. But if subscribers leave, they’ll miss out on the platform’s burgeoning library of exclusives, which includes must-see shows like Stranger Things, Ozark, Money Heist, Narcos, The Crown, and The Witcher.
The Witcher, for instance, is on the verge of becoming the “biggest season one TV series ever,” with 76 million households streaming the show during its first four weeks after its release.
Netflix bears often point to the company’s debt load problem to justify their apocalyptic forecasts.
But based on the latest earnings report, the streaming firm’s free cash flow in FY2020 is expected to improve to -$2.5 billion from -$3.3 billion in FY2019.
If this trend continues, Netflix will be on the path to funding new content organically. From the company’s shareholder letter:
With our FCF (free cash flow) profile improving, this means that over time we’ll be less reliant on public markets and will be able to fund more of our investment needs organically through our growing operating profits.
This is not the time for Netflix to rest on its laurels. Its rivals are either flush with cash (Apple), a rich content library (NBCUniversal), or both (Disney).
The company must secure sustained future growth, which will prove most difficult in the lucrative domestic market.
But unfortunately for NFLX bears like David Einhorn and Greenlight Capital, the $140 billion tech giant is up to the challenge.