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Spotify’s Strong Earnings Boost Stock While Arrest Leads To Frenzied Week for K-Pop Shares

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Spotify’s third-quarter earnings results helped give investors confidence about the company’s path and sent its shares up 10.3% to $170.63 on Tuesday before closing at $159.35 on Friday — up 6.3% for the week. Not only did the streaming giant turn an operating profit of 32 million euros ($34.8 million) — compared to a $247 million euro ($269 million) operating loss a year earlier — it added 6 million subscribers in the same quarter a price increase went into effect. 

That third-quarter growth will help the NYSE-listed, Swedish company exceed its expectations for subscriber gains this year. “We walked into 2023 thinking we would do just over 20 million in net subscriber adds for the full year,” CEO Daniel Ek said during Tuesday’s earnings call, “but we’re actually on track to deliver 30 million.” 

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Morgan Stanley analysts raised their Spotify price target from $190 to $200 on Wednesday, writing in an investor note that the company is “a superior product with pricing power” that will continue to expand gross margins. Likewise, analysts at JP Morgan increased their Spotify price target from $190 to $205 with a belief that the operating margin and free cash flow milestones reached in the quarter will attract more investors to the company.

Led by Anghami’s 11.5% improvement to $1.07, six music streaming companies had an average gain of 4.3% this week. China’s Tencent Music Entertainment, which will report third-quarter results on Nov. 14, gained 7.2% to $7.13, while another Chinese music streamer, Cloud Music, gained 3.3% to 85.50 HKD ($10.93). Meanwhile, U.S.-based LiveOne gained 1% to $1.00. 

Overall, the 21-stock Billboard Global Music Index dropped 0.7% to 1,304.74 this week, marking its third consecutive weekly loss and tenth down week in the second half of 2023. The slight decline dropped the index’s year-to-date gain to 11.7%. Of its 21 stocks, 13 finished the week in negative territory, seven posted gains and one, Round Hill Music Royalty Fund, was unchanged. (Round Hill’s purchase by Concord for $469 million was approved by shareholders on Oct. 18.)

Despite the widespread losses across the music business, the Billboard Global Music Index fared better than many indexes. In the United States, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite each declined 1.9%, while the United Kingdom’s FTSE 100 dropped 1.5% and South Korea’s KOSPI composite index fell 3%. 

The Nasdaq has slipped 10.3% from its peak on July 31, officially putting it in correction territory — a 10% decline from a high — on Wednesday. The Billboard Global Music Index hasn’t entered a correction yet, but it’s close, having declined 9.9% from its peak of 1,447.32 on July 21. 

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Shares of Universal Music Group (UMG) fell 4.2% to 23.31 euros ($24.46) this week, with the company’s third-quarter results on Thursday preceding a 7.2% decline on Friday. Guggenheim analysts maintained both their buy rating on UMG’s stock and their 27.00 euro ($28.56) price target. But the analysts dropped their fourth-quarter forecasts for UMG’s streaming revenue (from 4.4% to 3.5%) and subscription revenue growth (13.0% to 12.8%).

Radio stocks were hit particularly hard in the wake of Cumulus Media’s third-quarter earnings, which showed that the company’s revenue declined 11% year-over-year, to $207.4 million. That was chalked up to “weakness in national markets,” the company said on Friday. Cumulus Media’s share price fell 11.7% to $4.77 on Friday and finished the week down 5.4%. iHeartMedia, which will report earnings on November 9, fell 4.9% on Friday and finished the week down 12.7%.

K-pop stocks had a tumultuous week following Wednesday’s arrest of Lee Sun-kyun — an actor and member of the group BIGBANG known as G-Dragon — on charges of using illegal drugs. Lee, whose exclusive contract with YG Entertainment ended in June, denied the charges. Following his arrest, shares of YG Entertainment fell 7.9% to 50,200 won ($37.01) on Thursday, though they recovered most of the loss to finish the week down 2% to 52,600 won ($38.78).

News of Lee’s arrest sparked days of frenetic media coverage in South Korea, hurting other K-pop stocks and eliciting statements from K-pop agencies to quash any speculation their artists might be involved. Shares of HYBE fell 10.7% to 204,000 won ($150.42) on Thursday. The company issued a statement to the local press saying “BTS is in no way related to the rumors spreading online,” according to reports. HYBE shares recovered some of Thursday’s losses with a 3.9% gain on Friday and finished the week down 5.6% to 212,000 won ($156.32).

SM Entertainment, home to K-pop groups NCT and Red Velvet, fell 5.1% on Thursday and closed the week down 8.4% to 103,900 ($73.61). JYP Entertainment, the agency behind Stray Kids and Twice, lost 6.2% on Thursday but finished the week up 2.7% to 103,600 won ($76.39). 

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