The Back Story
The stock has accumulated a large number of vocal short-sellers, who are convinced that this is a high flyer destined for a fall, and many of them have been burnt in the price run-up, a fact alluded to in this Wall Street Journal article about the company.
- The conventional camera market is under threat from smart phones, and its share of the camera market has been shrinking over the last few years and there is little hope that it will stop doing so in the future.
- The camera market is changing and expanding. The entry of smart phone cameras has not only taken away market share from conventional camera companies but has changed the market by attracting new users into the market. These new customers, who are mostly uninterested in conventional cameras (and recording images and videos for family albums), are being drawn into this market, by their desire to record and post photos/videos on social media sites. That trend will continue into the future and I believe that the camera market will become a subset of the smart phone market. The good news is that the smartphone market is huge, estimated to be $355 billion in 2014, larger than the entire electronics market ($340 billion) in 2014. The bad news is that most of the consumers in this market will be satisfied with the cameras on their cell phones and will be unwilling to spend money on an expensive accessory, unless it serves a very specific need.
Source: IC Insights
- The action camera market will be a subset of the smartphone market and its customers will be those who are physically active people who also happen to be active on social media (over active, over sharers). To make an estimate of how many consumers are in this market, I used the CDC's statistic that about 22% of Americans are physically active. Generalizing (and globalizing) this statistic to the smartphone market yields a potential market that is about $80 billion in 2014 (22% of $355 billion). That is likely to be an over estimate, since not all physically active people are "sharers" on social media. According to this survey, about 31% of adults post videos on their social media site and it has both increased over time and is higher among younger adults (ages 18 through 29), 40% of whom post videos. Using the latter statistic, the overall market for action cameras is $31 billion (in 2013), estimated as 40% of $80 billion. Applying a 5% growth rate on this market yields a potential market of $51 billion in 2023. The picture below captures the sequence of assumptions that yields this number:
If we define it, as I think we should, as the subset of the smartphone accessory market that wants active cameras (the $51 billion market in 2023 identified in the last section), GoPro is the first mover in the market and has more growth potential (both because the market is growing and it has relatively few competitors, for the moment).
To gauge the expected market share that GoPro can get of this market, it is worth noting that while it initially had the action-camera market to itself, the competition is starting to take form from upstarts, established camera makers and from some smartphone manufacturers. Even if GoPro can establish a brand name advantage (by being the first one on the market), I don’t see any potential networking advantages that GoPro can bring to this process that will allow it, even if successful, to control a dominant share of this market, as the market gets bigger. Drawing from the established camera business market shares, I will assign a market share of 20% (resulting in revenues of about $10 billion for GoPro in 2023, i.e., 20% of $51 billion) , roughly similar to the 20% market share for Nikon, the leading camera maker, of the camera market in 2013. (I am not drawing a direct parallel between Nikon and GoPro, but I am arguing the market share breakdown of the action camera market is going to resemble the market share breakdown of the conventional camera market).
This estimate (12.5%) of the pre-tax operating margin is significantly higher than the 6%-7.5% margin reported by camera companies and similar to the 10%-15% margin reported by smartphone companies; Apple remains an outlier with its pre-tax margin in excess of 25%. I am, in effect, assuming that GoPro will preserve its premium pricing, even in the face of competition.
GoPro's focus on creating partnerships with Xbox and Pinterest suggest that it sees the possibility of generating revenues from becoming a media company (with the videos created by its customers as content). At the moment, using a contrast I drew earlier in my post on Uber, this is more in the realm of the possible than the plausible or the probable. If the value per share that we obtain is just a tad below the market price, this possibility may be sufficient to tilt the scale towards buying but it cannot account for a large chunk of the value today.
(You can download the base case valuation by clicking here)
- Existing camera manufacturers, some of whom (Sony and Panasonic) are much bigger players in the electronics market. (Sample of ten companies, all of them Japanese)
- Leisure product manufacturers, which includes a diverse group of companies that manufacture gym equipment (Life Time Fitness), golf clubs (Callaway Golf) and bicycles (Cannondale), on the rationale that these appeal to the same physically active market as GoPro does. (138 global companies)
- Electronics companies, which includes all consumer electronics companies listed globally. (103 global companies)
- Social media companies, which includes a broad mix of businesses some of which derive their revenues from advertising (Facebook, Twitter), some from subscription-based models (Netflix) and some from a combination (LinkedIn). (13 social media companies)
|Based on market prices on 10/15/14 & trailing 12-month data|
This is a simplistic comparison, where I have used the median values for the sectors involved and not controlled for differences in fundamentals (growth, risk and cash flows) across companies. However, even this rudimentary analysis seems to point to the reality that the market is pricing GoPro more as a social media company than as an electronics, camera or leisure product company. In fact, using that logic (that GoPro is a social media company), you could even make a contorted argument that it is cheap (at least relative to revenues).
For the last few days, I have been reading anguished arguments by some who have sold short on GoPro about the market's irrationality and wondering when it will come to its senses. Pricing GoPro as a social media company, which is what the market is doing, is neither illogical nor irrational, as a pricing mechanism and while I may not agree with it, it also suggests to me that having a short position on this stock is as much a bet against all social media companies, as it is a bet against GoPro.