Down 15% Already in 2022, Is This Metaverse Stock a Buy? – Motley Fool

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While 2021 was very good to Roblox (NYSE:RBLX) shareholders, 2022 is off to an arguably poor start. This gaming platform company with metaverse potential has been caught up in the broader growth stock sell-off and is trading down about 15.7% year to date.

Part of the drop can be attributed to some investor concern heading into 2022 about Roblox’s rich valuation. Let’s look closer at this metaverse company and determine if the concern is justified, or if perhaps the stock is worth buying at its lower (but still elevated) price. 

Various characters from the Roblox universe stand together on a simulated street in the Roblox “metaverse.” Image source: Roblox.

Roblox is maintaining its user growth momentum

The Roblox app is free to join and use. The company earns revenue through in-app purchases voluntarily made by its users. This freemium model has helped the company attract 49.4 million daily active users (as of November). That’s 35% higher than in the same month in 2020. User engagement and new signups surged for Roblox at the pandemic onset when millions of kids were sent home for remote learning, and extracurricular activities were paused. Despite economies reopening and schools bringing kids back to campus, Roblox has sustained its user growth rates. That’s impressive.

If users wish to access certain items and activities on the platform, they do so by spending Robux, an in-game currency that is purchased with real money. The company records revenue when users spend Robux in the game. In its most recently reported quarter, ended Sept. 30, Roblox earned $509 million in revenue. That total was up by 102% from the same quarter in 2020. In fact, Roblox has doubled revenue year over year in each of the previous four quarters.

Roblox in-house developers do not create most of the games and items that players spend Robux on. Instead, Roblox has a community of third-party developers who spend their time and resources using the platform to create unique experiences, gameplay, and objects they think players will enjoy. This business model lowers the development costs for Roblox and it also lowers one of the biggest risks involved with game development — the cost of developing an unpopular game. The user-developers take on the risk and only get their share of the compensation if the game attracts user engagement and Robux spending. Only proven hits that generate engagement make money. 

The model is proving to be effective at generating cash flow for Roblox. While Roblox is not profitable on the bottom line, it is earning a growing stream of free cash flow. It has put together a streak of five consecutive quarters where its free cash flow surpassed $100 million. That’s remarkably higher than in all of 2019, when it earned less than $15 million in free cash flow.

The one metric for Roblox that shows any signs of slowing down due to economic reopening is the average booking per daily active user. Booking is the equivalent of a cash deposit. This is money that players are putting onto Roblox to buy Robux, but they have not used it just yet. In its most recent update, Roblox said the average booking per daily active user declined between 8% to 9% from the same month the prior year. A decrease in deposits could foreshadow decreasing year-over-year revenue.

Interestingly, the metaverse is a place where individuals can virtually interact with each other and their environment. Roblox platform is an early-stage version of this. “Metaverse” means different things to different people, and the way users of Roblox interact with each other through the program already fits at least one of these definitions. But there is more it can do, and Roblox management is working with in-house and outside developers to see where it can go with this trend. Of course, the quality of this experience is improved the more immersive it feels. In that regard, Roblox’s attractiveness to users will increase as virtual reality hardware becomes more readily available at more affordable prices. 

An excellent company that appears overpriced

The fall in Roblox’s stock price has it trading at a price-to-sales ratio of 25.4, down from 40 just a few months ago. It also dropped its price-to-free-cash-flow ratio to 70, down from over 105 a few months earlier. Both metrics suggest the stock is still trading at a premium. Some of that may be related to Roblox’s long-term potential to be a metaverse player. If you agree with this assessment, now might be as good a time as any to buy-in. For others, the fall has made Roblox stock a little more attractive, but investors might want to wait a bit longer and see if there is a further pullback before adding shares of this excellent metaverse stock

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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