Yelp’s Growth Strategy ‘Completely Fell Apart’
(Bloomberg) -- Yelp Inc. analysts turned highly negative on the user-review website in the wake of its third-quarter results, which fell short of expectations. The company also gave an outlook suggesting growth would continue to slow.
A number of firms issued downgrades, including Wedbush, which writes that "the mis-execution in and challenges to the strategy need further examination by management." The cuts, along with reduced targets, are contributing to the stock’s collapse of 31 percent in pre-market trading.
Here’s a summary of what analysts are saying about the results:
Aegis Capital, Victor Anthony
Notes that his sell thesis "plays out."
”We continue to believe that Yelp will be challenged to grow the lifetime value of the account base. ARPU is likely to continue to decline for sometime and churn is likely to continue to be an issue.”
”Management is committing to double-digit topline growth in ’19 and 2-3pts of margin expansion. The margin expansion is doable (cut back on non core investment) but we are skeptical that double-digit growth is achievable.’
Cuts target to $29 from $36, maintains sell rating.
JPMorgan, Doug Anmuth
Says weakness in paid advertisers was "the key miss” in the quarter, as it was the first time Yelp didn’t grow this metric on a sequential basis.
Also cites sales weakness, noting "we believe that PAA growth/ARPPA may be volatile in the near-term as management focuses on improving retention and converting claimed businesses.”
The drop in the stock means "there could be some modest recovery in the near-term,” but "we believe upside is limited as Yelp works through its sales execution issues and needs to rebuild investor confidence yet again.”
Downgrades stock to neutral from overweight and cuts price target to $36 from $57.
Wedbush, Ygal Arounian
"The strategy completely fell apart this quarter” after strong early results of the shift to non-term from annual contracts where net paid advertiser account growth accelerated meaningfully.
"The risk was always that higher churn could offset the benefit of acceleration, but the downshift to zero net PAA adds q-q shows significantly more fragility to the strategy than we previously anticipated.”
Believes Yelp will add net advertisers over time, but "the mis-execution in and challenges to the strategy need further examination by management that will take time to lead back to a net benefit in our view.”
Downgrades to neutral from outperform and removes from best ideas list.
Raymond James, Justin Patterson
The results ”suggest the transition to non-term contracts is more volatile than we believed. Yelp’s record low net adds imply execution issues may be magnified under the new model, thus limiting visibility on the pace of recovery and elevating risk around 2019 projections.”
Cuts to market perform from outperform.
Stifel, John Egbert
"Yelp aims to return to double-digit y/y revenue growth in 2019 along with a 200-300bps improvement in adj. EBITDA margin, but we think there are significant execution risks to achieving these targets.”
Lowers price target to $34; according to Bloomberg data, it had been at $42.
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