Pokemon Go success ups Nintendo shares


Investors have embraced Nintendo thanks to the massive success of Pokémon Go. The shares rose another 15 percent on Thursday, meaning the company's valuation has risen 69 percent since the start of the month.

But not everyone is convinced.

CLSA analyst Jay Defibaugh rates Nintendo a sell, telling clients "the economic benefit to Nintendo from the title is unclear."

There is no doubt that Pokémon Go is a massive success. But there are questions about how much money Nintendo is making from it.

Nintendo is one of five companies that are sharing the revenue from the mobile game. Although Pokémon Go is free users pay for "add-ons" that help them locate the creatures in the game.

The other companies involved are the game's developer Niantic, The Pokémon Company (owner of the characters and intellectual property rights), Apple and Google.

Apple and Google get a cut of the revenue for selling the Pokémon add-ons via iTunes and Google Play.

Jay Defibaugh says "In our past conversations with Nintendo management, in the context of Pokémon games for Nintendo handhelds and consoles, management has indicated that Nintendo receives royalties for Pokémon titles but surprisingly little direct profit, benefiting instead from the impact of Pokémon titles on hardware sales and penetration."

He is not alone. Some investors have pointed out that Nintendo's share price is now trading at a price-to-earnings multiple of 184. The price-to-earnings ratio is a measure of the company's current share price relative to its per-share earnings.

The average global market P/E ratio is 20-25 times earnings.

Tech stocks typically trade at high P/E levels because investors have high hopes for future earnings. But even by tech-company standards Nintendo's market price is eye-watering.

Calculating who gets what is made even harder because of the complex ownership structure of both Niantic and The Pokémon Company.

Nintendo owns 32 percent of The Pokémon Company, with the rest owned by Game Freak and Creatures. Nintendo also has a stake in Creatures.

Niantic was spun out of Google last year. Nintendo, The Pokémon Company and Alphabet (Google's parent company) all took an equity stake in the company.

Macquarrie's David Gibson calculated that Ninantic receives 30 percent of the revenue, The Pokémon Company gets thirty percent and Nintendo gets ten percent.  The remaining thirty percent goes to Google or Apple, depending on which platform was used to download the add-on.

But Mr Gibson says Nintendo probably gets 20 percent of the revenue in total, through its direct revenue stake and through its involvement in Niantic and The Pokémon Company.

He says the long term effects for Nintendo from Pokémon Go should be positive.

Other analysts agree and say the real benefit for Nintendo will be through the upcoming release of other mobile games in which Nintendo has a larger share of the revenue.

That still leaves investors with the question of whether the possible future earnings justify Nintendo's lofty share price.