Shares of Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) initially traded lower in Thursday's after-hours session following a mixed quarterly report. Although Groupon's earnings and revenue exceeded expectations in the third quarter, its outlook fell short of analyst estimates.
Earnings and guidance
For the third quarter, Groupon earned an adjusted $0.03 per share on revenue of $757.1 million. Analysts had been looking for the company to earn just $0.01 per share on revenue of $749 million. It should be noted, however, that on a purely GAAP basis, Groupon remains unprofitable, losing $0.03 per share.
Unfortunately for Groupon shareholders, it doesn't expect the fourth quarter to be as great as many had anticipated. Groupon now expects to earn $0.02 to $0.04 per share on revenue of $875 to $925 million. Analysts had been looking for the company to earn about $0.07 per share on revenue of $926 million.
Customers are active and mobile
Beyond earnings and revenue, several metrics suggest that Groupon's business is strengthening. Groupon now has 52.7 million active customers -- defined to be customers who purchased from Groupon within the last 12 months -- up 24% from the prior year.
Those customers spent an average of $149, up sequentially from $141 in the second quarter, and up significantly from $137 in the same quarter last year. Groupon had roughly 300,000 active deals on a global basis, and more than 120,000 in North America. That's almost double the 65,000 it reported in the third quarter of 2013.
Groupon had largely built its business on daily email blasts, but is increasingly focusing on driving traffic with its mobile app. That app is more popular than ever -- it's now been downloaded more than 100 million times -- but Groupon's mobile growth appears to be leveling off.
A year ago, Groupon's app had only been downloaded 60 million times, suggesting great growth on an annual basis. Sequential growth, however, was rather modest -- Groupon saw only 8 million additional downloads this quarter from last. Groupon continues to define mobile as representing more than half its business.
A Ticket Monster spinoff?
Perhaps most interestingly, Groupon suggested that it could undertake a spinoff or sale of its Asian business, including its Korean-based Ticket Monster subsidy. This is notable, as Groupon acquired Ticket Monster just one year ago.
Since then, Ticket Monster has enjoyed tremendous growth. Groupon's gross billings metric, which represents the total value of goods and services purchased by its customers, rose 39% on an annual basis this quarter. Most of that growth was due to Ticket Monster -- its "Rest of World" category, which is dominated by Ticket Monster, saw gross billings rise 155% on an annual basis. For comparison, North American gross billings increased just 16%.
Given its rapid growth, the sale or spinoff of Ticket Monster could result in significant value creation for Groupon shareholders. To be fair, Groupon did not confirm a sale or spinoff -- only announced that it was exploring such options -- but such a move makes sense.
Groupon has largely disappointed investors since it went public nearly three years ago, and many may be loathe to invest in a company where the longtime core business -- daily deals -- appears to have been somewhat of a fad. But a stand-alone, rapidly growing Asian business could attract far more interest, and may command a much higher multiple than Groupon itself.