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Is Netflix, Inc. (NFLX) Stock a Good Buy?

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Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) is up over 150% year to date, in the latest development in the stock’s roller coaster ride (it is in fact down 11% from its levels two years ago). The company’s entry into original programming has had mixed results- quite popular among the media infovores who already have Netflix subscriptions, but it’s uncertain that the programming initiative will in fact prove sufficient to offset the reduction in Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX)’s value-add as its content library shrinks. In addition, with earnings remaining low, shareholders remain dependent on blockbuster growth from the company in the future.

In the second quarter of 2013, Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX)’s revenue grew by 20% versus a year earlier and 4% on a q/q basis, suggesting high but somewhat steady growth on the top line. With growth in many costs, including marketing and technology expenses, held down the company earned 49 cents per share for the quarter. At a current stock price of over $240 per share, that means that Netflix is valued at over 100 times annualized earnings from that quarter. Wall Street analysts are forecasting $3.17 in EPS for 2014- in other words, an average quarterly figure of 79 cents, up about 60% from what the company is currently doing- and even so the forward P/E is 76. These growth rates shouldn’t be ruled out, but it does seem speculative to buy the stock depending on high growth to continue. According to the most recent data, 17$ of Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX)’s float is held short.

We track quarterly 13F filings from hundreds of hedge funds and other notable investors as part of our work researching investment strategies (we have found, for example, that the most popular small cap stocks among hedge funds earn an average excess return of 18 percentage points per year). According to our database, billionaire Carl Icahn owned over $1 billion worth of the stock at the end of March (find Icahn’s favorite stocks) though we’d note that he bought these shares mostly in Q4 2012 at considerably lower prices. Coatue Management, managed by Tiger Cub Philippe Laffont, reported a position of 1.4 million shares at the end of the first quarter of the year (see Laffont’s stock picks).

Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) can be compared to Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), which has its own instant video library and may move into original programming as well. Amazon has something of a strategic advantage over Netflix in that it can bundle instant video access with its Prime membership, which also offers shipping benefits to frequent Amazon customers.

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