Peloton shares could be headed to $5, short-seller Citron Research says

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Peloton Interactive Software Inc. shares were down more than 6% in Tuesday trading after short-seller Citron Research penned a negative report on the maker of exercise equipment, arguing that its stock could be headed for a slide of more than 80%.

The Citron analysts, who set a $5 price target on the stock, argue that Peloton’s PTON, -6.99%  digital strategy is flawed while its hardware capabilities are both behind the competition and undeserving of a premium multiple. The report also mentions “obvious comparisons to GoPro and Fitbit” and Citron’s regret that it wasn’t “more aggressive” on its GoPro short call after issuing a bearish report on the company in 2014.

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When it comes to Peloton, the analysts take issue with Peloton’s $12.99 digital plan, which is available to those who don’t own the company’s exercise equipment, and its price contrast relative to the $39 connected-fitness plan for those who do pay $2,245 for one of Peloton’s spinning bikes. Though the $39 membership offers a wider variety of features including live workout metrics, the doubt that the digital plan is actually as strong of a lead generator for the premium experience as management says.

“To put it in terms of digital content… Imagine if Netflix decided to increase its subscriber base by giving away its content to DirecTV subscribers for $3 a month rather than $12.99 and justified it by claiming they hoped to build enough brand loyalty that customers would eventually become Netflix subscribers,” Citron wrote. “Would anybody buy that strategy?”

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The cheaper price of the digital-only offering has allowed rivals to “quickly exploit” Peloton’s strategy and advertise that their less-expensive equipment is compatible with Peloton’s digital membership and workouts.

In terms of hardware, the analysts cite a “lack of differentiation of its bike” that is making it so “the competition is not only making virtually identical exercise bikes but ones that are both more affordable and functional.”

Citron arrives at its $5 target price by looking at Peloton’s enterprise value per user and comparing it to the average for a basket of peer companies, including Facebook Inc. FB, -0.38%, Match Group Inc. MTCH, +0.68%, and Roku Inc. ROKU, +0.37%  The firm calculates that Peloton is 2286% higher than the average on the metric and that if it had the same value per user as the average, its stock would be valued at $5.

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“By no means is Citron saying that Peloton’s revenue will decline by 70% or 80% but even a small decrease in growth will result in a large decrease in share price,” Citron said in its report.

Peloton’s stock went public in late September at an offering price of $29. Shares were trading near $32.50 Tuesday afternoon. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.