Renren (NYSE: RENN ) has a funny way of being a heartbreaker every three months.
The Chinese social networking website operator posted mixed quarterly results last night, topped off by dreadful guidance for the current quarter.
Yes, Renren did post a narrower deficit than Wall Street was expecting. This is the fourth quarter in a row where it's been able to beat the prognosticators on the bottom line. However, Renren has a serious growth problem, and until that's licked, the stock isn't going anywhere.
Net revenue climbed 11% to $49.6 million, but that's half the growth rate that analysts were targeting. Analysts were betting on a 23% top-line pop to $55.1 million.
The news gets less impressive the deeper you look. A big reason for Renren's growth is its Nuomi daily deals site. Revenue at its once-booming online game operations -- now accounting for nearly half of Renren's business -- inched a mere 1% higher. Online advertising only managed a 2% uptick.
Think about that.
During the same three months that Facebook (NASDAQ: FB ) delivered a 53% surge in revenue -- largely through online advertising -- the company that's supposedly in the hotter market can't even get its online ad revenue to keep pace with inflation.
This would be easy to explain if growth is waning at Renren, but the dot-com laggard claims that unique visitors to the social networking site during the month of June rose 20% to 54 million. That's in line with the 21% increase in monthly active users at Facebook.
Facebook is finding ways to milk more money out of its visitors. Why can't Renren do the same when it's toiling away in a country where the economy is growing faster than Facebook's home turf?
The bad news is that the brutal top-line miss isn't the worst part of Renren's report. Its guidance for the current quarter calls for revenue to decline by as much as 7%. The $47 million to $49 million that it's initiating as guidance is well off the $64.6 million that analysts were forecasting.
Slowing growth was bad, but now Renren's starting to shift into reverse.
Investors that bought in at the IPO price of $14 two years ago aren't likely to get back there. There's always the chance that Renren regains its growth, serves up profitable results, or catches lightning in a bottle with a new initiative. However, investors will only have themselves to blame if they feel that the news will get any better three months from now.
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