Zynga earnings preview: what the analysts think

Zynga’s stock price has been falling in recent days in advance of the company’s first quarter earnings report today. The shares are trading at $9.15 each right now — up slightly but down significantly from a recent high of $15.91 a share. Do investors know something?

Analysts expect the company to report earnings of 5 cents a share on revenue of $316.8 million for the first quarter ended March 31. On AppData, Zynga has 281.6 million monthly active users and all five of the top five games. Here’s what some of the analysts who follow Zynga closely think.

Colin Sebastian of Baird Equity Research said that he expects results to be in line or slightly below estimates of a profit of 6 cents a share for the quarter.

He noted recently that Facebook said that Zynga accounted for 11 percent of its revenues in the first quarter — down from 12 percent in the fourth quarter. Zynga pays about 30 percent of revenues to Facebook as a fee for Facebook Credits transactions — not counting advertising. That suggests Zynga’s net bookings were around $230 million in the quarter. The company also probably generated $65 million in ad bookings. He noted that Zynga games continue to dominate the charts on Facebook, accounting for eight of the top 10 games in daily average users. On iOS, Zynga has six of the top 100 grossing apps and eight of the top 100 on Android.

“While Zynga continues to dominate Facebook games and is making solid progress on mobile platforms, we believe that slower growth on Facebook limits upside to estimates near term,” Sebastian said.

Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Securities, also said he expects results to be in-line with expectations. Pachter increased estimates for the fiscal year to reflect the acquisition of OMGPOP, which has a hit game in Draw Something on iOS. For the full year, he expects bookings of $1.35 billion to $1.45 billion and non-GAAP earnings per share of 24 cents to 28 cents.

He expects Zynga shares to hit $17 each in the coming year.

Atul Bagga, an analyst at Lazard Capital Markets, said in a note that he expects a profit of 4 cents on revenue of $315.6 million. He thinks Zynga has had a strong reception for its Hidden Chronicles and Slingo games and improved the monetization of CastleVille. Mafia Wars may be underperforming as a franchise while Zynga Poker, CityVille, and FarmVille are stable.

He expects guidance for the full year to be raised from the $1.35 billion to $1.45 billion range to something higher. Bagga believes the stock has been falling based on fears that Zynga will make more (seemingly unwise) acquisitions, but he thinks those fears are overblown. His long-term target for the stock is $16 a share.

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