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5 Reasons The Trade Desk Popped on Earnings

By Danny Vena - Feb 29, 2020 at 10:30AM

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After rocketing higher in 2019, the digital-ad specialist is starting off the year with a bang.

Its stock had more than doubled in 2019, so expectations were already high going into The Trade Desk's (TTD -1.94%) fourth-quarter earnings report. The programmatic ad-buying specialist forecast strong year-over-year revenue growth and Wall Street was along for the ride. Even considering the robust expectations built in, The Trade Desk surpassed both internal and external estimates, and the stock continued its relentless climb, gaining more than 6% in after-hours trading.

There was plenty to like about the company's better-than-expected showing, but here are five reasons shareholders could be in for another banner year.

Six people sitting around a conference table smiling, with one wearing a t-shirt with The Trade Desk logo.

Image source: The Trade Desk.

1. Revenue up 35%

The Trade Desk continues to put up striking revenue growth. The company generated revenue of $215.9 million, up 35% year over year. This easily surpassed management's forecast and analysts' consensus estimates, which topped out at $213 million and $213.4 million, respectively. 

The gains were driven by ad spending on the platform, which topped $1 billion for the first time in a single quarter. This indicates that a greater number of advertisers are shifting their spending away from other providers to The Trade Desk's data-driven platform.

2. Earnings per share jumped 37%

The Trade Desk continues to expand its revenue while managing costs and producing healthy profits -- a rare thing among high-growth companies. Net income grew 29% year over year to $50.9 million, producing diluted earnings per share of $1.06, up 26%.

The results were even more pronounced on an adjusted basis, as non-GAAP net income grew 40% year over year to $71.6 million, resulting in adjusted diluted earnings per share of $1.49, up 37% compared to the prior-year quarter -- and soaring past analysts' expectations of $1.17.

Operating expenses of $163.3 million were 46% higher year over year as the company continued to "make aggressive investments in high-growth areas such as Connected TV, data, and global expansion."

3. Advertising in key channels continues to soar

The Trade Desk is grabbing additional market share by tapping several key, high-growth channels within programmatic advertising. Connected TVs (CTV) continued to gain converts, producing year-over-year ad growth of 100% in the fourth quarter, extending the stellar growth the channel displayed all year. For 2019, CTV ad revenue grew 137%.

Audio also continued its torrid pace, growing 185% in 2019 compared to the prior year, while mobile video grew 50%. Mobile in-app advertising continued its robust gains, with advertising in that channel climbing 67%.

Two hands touching a digital globe showing various consumer advertising touchpoints.

Image source: Getty Images.

4. Spend more to make more

The Trade Desk said that going into 2020, it plans to grow operating expenses faster than revenue. Management said on the conference call that it sees an opportunity in the coming year for more of a "land grab," or an increased opportunity to attract and retain long-term customers by spending more money.

The company expects that while this will hit the bottom line in the near term, it will result in greater profitability in the coming years.

5. Sunny skies in the forecast

One of the most exciting aspects of the company's guidance was related to the advertising on its platform. The Trade Desk expects total gross spending in 2020 to climb to $4.24 billion, up 37% year over year and an acceleration from the 32% gains in 2019.

The Trade Desk forecasts first-quarter revenue of $169 million, up 30% year over year, decelerating from the 41% gains in the prior-year quarter but easily topping expectations of $161.2 million. Given management's history of providing conservative guidance, the results will likely be stronger. For the full year, The Trade Desk is expecting revenue of at least $863 million. This forecast is slightly higher than analysts' consensus estimates for full-year revenue of $860 million. 

The Trade Desk continues to steal market share from the competition, expanding at nearly twice the 19% growth rate of the digital advertising industry. The technology company's data-driven approach to ads continues to gain converts due to its channel-agnostic approach. The stock soared more than 123% in 2019 on it robust financial results, and now The Trade Desk has come strong out the gate to start 2020.

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