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Should You Follow Bill Ackman Into Netflix Stock?

There aren't a lot of silver linings in the disappointing report that Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) streamed for its shareholders last week, but one of them is that it's starting to smoke out some unusual investors. Pershing Square's Bill Ackman revealed on Wednesday afternoon that his firm has amassed a 3.1 million-share stake in the leading -- but bleeding -- premium-video service.

On Friday of last week, Ackman began his shopping spree as shares plunged 22% following its problematic financial update. A weak quarter and a gloomy near-term outlook are raining on the streaming party. He kept buying this week, as the stock has now fallen sharply for four consecutive trading days. The stock has now shed nearly half of its value since peaking just two months ago.

Ackman is a well-known activist and value investor. Yes, we're at the point where an iconic value investor is loading up on Netflix stock. If you thought 2021 was weird, welcome to 2022.

Image source: Getty Images.

Netflix and shill

Let's start by exploring Ackman and Pershing Square. A streaming service isn't necessarily an Ackman sweet spot. His more prolific investments include record labels, hotel operators, and coffee shops.

In a letter explaining the move, Ackman revealed that he has taken an interest in streaming entertainment since becoming an investor in the music business last year. A fan of Netflix, he thinks the stock is now cheap enough for Pershing Square to become one of its 20 largest stakeholders.

Netflix is finally good enough for Ackman and Pershing Square. Is it good enough for you?

The stock has shed nearly half of its market cap -- and nearly that much in enterprise value -- since peaking in mid-November. Netflix remains the undisputed leader in streaming services, but let's not assume that everything at the house that Hastings built is peachy keen.

Last week was a moving truck pulling up into the driveway of every Netflix shareholder. There's a lot to unpack now.

Why did it miss guidance for the fourth quarter with record-shattering content hitting the platform after the forecast was announced? Why is momentum so unkind on the subscriber-acquisition front for the current quarter with its biggest TV series and two biggest movies of all time coming out in its previous quarter? Then we get to the head-scratching math of the actual outlook for the current quarter.

Netflix expects to have 224.34 million streaming subscribers worldwide at the end of March, 8% more than it had a year ago. It sees revenue growing just 10%, despite just pushing out an 11% pricing increase to domestic users. There was a recent rate decrease in India -- and other markets are holding pat on pricing -- but the numbers shouldn't be this low.

However, here is where Ackman, the value investor, starts to fade into Ackman, the activist investor. Netflix is still the top dog of streaming service stocks. He has just 2% of the outstanding shares right now, but his voice is always louder than his stake.

I'm not ready to give up on Reed Hastings. He has made winning move after winning move over the past two decades. Give him a chance. If he fails, Ackman may have other plans.

There's a new line of defense for Netflix investors, and that may be more important than following Ackman into Netflix solely as a turnaround value play.

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Rick Munarriz owns Netflix. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Netflix. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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