Netflix stock gets a boost after hedge fund Pershing Square invests

Netflix stock on Thursday rose about 8%, boosted by an announcement from hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management LP that it had become a top 20 investor.

The streamer’s stock, which closed at $386.70 a share on the Nasdaq, had been in decline after its earnings results last week revealed it had missed internal projections for new subscribers in the fourth quarter and experienced an expected slowdown in subscriber growth in the first quarter.

But Netflix got a lift from from New York-based Pershing Square.

Pershing Chief Executive Bill Ackman said on Twitter that his firm recently purchased more than 3.1 million shares in Netflix. That’s about a 0.68% stake in Netflix, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Netflix is a primary beneficiary of the growth in streaming and the decline in linear TV driven by its superior customer experience, a vast and diverse amount of superb, constantly refreshed content, global improvements in bandwidth, and the proliferation and continuous improvement and convenience of devices on which one can watch,” Ackman said in a note to Pershing Square investors on Wednesday.

Netflix declined to comment.

“Bill only shows up when things are depressed,” said Ray Wang, a principal analyst with Palo Alto-based Constellation Research. “He’s going find a way to drive up the price his way.”

Wang speculated that Ackman may try to boost the price of Netflix shares by pressing the company to spend less on content. Netflix recently raised the price of U.S. subscriptions to fund more content on its streaming service.

Following Netflix’s earnings report, investors expressed concern about the slowdown in subscriber growth, despite having a strong quarter filled with popular movies and TV shows like “Red Notice” and the second season of “The Witcher.” Netflix added 8.3 million new subscribers in the fourth quarter, missing its internal projections of 8.5 million.

The company estimated it would add 2.5 million subscribers in the first quarter, compared with 4 million a year ago.

Netflix cited macroeconomic conditions in places like Latin America and downplayed the effects of competition from other streaming services.

“There’s more competition than there’s ever been,” co-Chief Executive Reed Hastings said in an earnings presentation. “But we’ve had Hulu and Amazon for 14 years. So it doesn’t feel like any qualitative change there.”

Pershing Square’s other investments include Santa Monica-based Universal Music Group.

“Now with both UMG and Netflix, we are all- in on streaming as we love the business models, the industry contexts, and the management teams leading these remarkable organizations,” Ackman said in his note to investors.

“I have long admired Reed Hastings and the remarkable company he and his team have built,” Ackman wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “We are delighted that the market has presented us with this opportunity.”

Netflix’s top institutional shareholders include investment management company the Vanguard Group with a 7.14% ownership stake, followed by two Capital Research and Management Co. investment groups, one that holds a 6.58% share, another with a 4.45% stake. Fidelity Management and Research Co. owns 4.05% of the company, according to FactSet.

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