Why One Analyst Sees Significant Upside at Facebook in Crypto Endeavor

Although Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) had a rough run in 2018 amid security breaches, congressional hearings, and privacy issues, the company has done significantly better this year. In fact recent reports of Facebook launching its own cryptocurrency based on blockchain technology have prompted analysts to take a closer look at the firm and what this could mean going forward.

Argus was one of the first firms to weigh in on Facebook. The independent research firm reiterated a Buy rating for the social media giant with a $220 price target, implying an upside of roughly 17% from the most recent closing price of $188.47.

In its report, Argus was quick to say that despite the challenging near-term outlook, the firm remains bullish on Facebook based on its position as the dominant social media site — a position again underscored by the company’s first-quarter results.

Additionally, while Facebook has reached saturation in the U.S., Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp have all achieved a critical mass of users and are ramping up monetization. Still, the market remains uncertain about the ability of these platforms to pick up the slack from flagship Facebook, as well as about management’s ability to address a range of daunting challenges — including tempering any user backlash, countering unfavorable regulation, and improving employee morale.

At this point, Argus believes the introduction of the new Libra cryptocurrency represents a significant product extension for Facebook that will enable it to diversify revenue away from advertising and leverage its large 2.4 billion user base into the digital/mobile payments business.

Details about the new cryptocurrency are still sketchy and the subject of much speculation. News reports suggest that Libra will be backed by a consortium of companies, including financial heavyweights Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal, as well as technology companies such as Uber Technologies and Spotify. Participating companies will each contribute $10 million to the consortium and become nodes in the blockchain. Presumably, if enough companies sign on as members, the total, perhaps $1 billion, would function as a store of real value and thus give Libra more stability than other cryptocurrencies.

Shares of Facebook were last seen down about 1% at $186.26, with a 52-week range of $123.02 to $218.62. The consensus analyst price target is $222.30.