Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P) shares slipped 2% yesterday after an analyst downgrade.
Wedbush Securities' Michael Pachter may have bumped his target price from $10 to $11.50, but that's not a compliment when the stock closed higher than that on Monday. His rating on the music-discovery speedster is being cut from outperform to neutral.
Let's break this down into the three reasons that Pandora may be heading lower in the coming weeks.
1. The stock has moved too high, too fast There's really only one reason an analyst would raise a price target but slash a rating, and that's when a stock has shot higher in a hurry. The stock has soared by roughly 60% since bottoming out two months ago.
Have the gains been warranted? The climate has been kind for online companies, but we can't forget that Pandora took a hit in early December after posting uninspiring quarterly results. Pandora really didn't earn this 60% pop.
Netflix , Pandora, and Google's YouTube are the only three companies serving more than a billion hours of digital content, and both Netflix and Google came through with blowout quarterly results earlier this month.
However, the comparisons should pretty much end there.
Google is a very profitable search engine. YouTube is a small part of its business, and it's widely believed to be a drag on margins. Netflix now has more than 33 million streaming accounts, and that's premium customers who have made the company surprisingly profitable despite the stiff content licensing fees and costly bandwidth.
Pandora doesn't have the benefits that have made Google and Netflix shine. Yes, Pandora's growing faster than either company, but analysts see nothing but red ink in the near future given Pandora's steep music royalty obligations.
2. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) isn't going away Pandora's stock has been vulnerable as reports of Apple introducing a streaming service surface.
It's easy to be apprehensive. Apple is the country's leading music retailer, and that's without selling a single CD. If the digital music giant sets its sights on streaming -- and all indications point to Apple lining up licensing rights with the major labels these days -- it's going to leave a mark.
Pachter expects Apple to announce its service early this year. He sees it taking as much as 15% share from Pandora, though the one thing holding it back will be the likely lack of support for Google's Android. The move would limit the service's mobile appeal to iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch owners.
3. Sirius XM has quietly arrived Sirius XM Radio finally introduced its streaming customized radio platform late last week. It's still in beta, but one can't ignore a company with 23.9 million satellite radio subscribers. These are folks who actually pay to hear audio content, and the same can't be said for most of Pandora's 67.1 million active listeners.
This is where Pandora is the most vulnerable.