Top Wall St brokerages start Reddit coverage with doubts over user growth


FILE PHOTO: Reddit logo is seen in this illustration taken November 7, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

(Reuters) -Top Wall Street brokerages, whose investment banking units helped Reddit prepare for its public issue, started coverage of the social media company with doubts over its user growth, while staying bullish on ad revenue and its use of artificial intelligence (AI). Goldman Sachs and J.P.Morgan began with a "neutral" rating and a price target of $40 and $47, respectively, while Morgan Stanley had an "equal-weight" rating and a $45 price target.

Reddit shares were last trading at $40.66, below last month's debut price of $47.

"DAUq (daily active unique users) growth has accelerated in recent quarters and there is meaningful headroom for growth, but for now Reddit's base of 73 million users is relatively sub-scale," J.P.Morgan analysts led by Doug Anmuth wrote in a note.

They estimated DAUq to hit 109 million users by 2026, but these figures still lagged peers like Meta Platforms' Facebook and Elon Musk's X by a wide margin.

"Reddit needs to prove it can meaningfully scale over time," they said.

The social media company relies on advertising for a big share of its revenue, even though it touted AI in its initial public offering (IPO) as an area of growth.

Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Bank of America were among over a dozen underwriters for the Reddit IPO, all of whom had to wait till mid April to start coverage as required by industry practice.

"Valuation leaves us on sidelines as we wait for evidence of outsized user growth and faster execution," said Morgan Stanley.

Deutsche Bank, Raymond James, Needham, Piper Sandler and Roth MKM were the most bullish on the stock with Needham's $55 price target being the highest on Wall Street.

While Piper termed Reddit an "iconic internet asset", Roth said the company is regarded as the "front page of the Internet" and deserved a premium valuation.

"Reddit's large, unique, and fresh corpus of user-generated text content is now increasingly valuable to AI models," Roth analysts said.

On the use of AI, J.P.Morgan said, "Reddit is early in ads monetization and the company's corpus of historical information could represent a compelling source for LLM (large language model) training."

"From a data monetization perspective, the data corpus of authentic human conversation at Reddit is unique," Raymond James added.

Reddit's popularity rose to new heights during the "meme-stock" saga of 2021 in which a group of retail investors collaborated on its forum "wallstreetbets" to buy shares of highly shorted companies like GameStop.

Earlier this month, brokerages Baird and Bernstein had initiated coverage on Reddit with concerns over the company turning a profit.

Brokerage Rating Price

Target

Goldman Sachs Neutral $40

J.P. Morgan Neutral $47

Morgan Equal-weight $45

Stanley

Deutsche Bank Buy $50

Raymond James Strong Buy $50

Piper Sandler Overweight $50

Roth MKM Buy $50

Needham Buy $55

(Reporting by Siddarth S in Bengaluru; Editing by Vijay Kishore)

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