Long-time Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) shareholders have to be disappointed: Since its public debut three years ago, Groupon shares have lost more than 70% of their value -- nearly 40% this year alone.
But even down so significantly, Groupon shares could still be headed lower if any of the following scenarios play out. There's no guarantee Groupon shares will fall -- a rallying stock market could buoy the stock even if its core business is deteriorating -- but shareholders will likely be disappointed if any of the following possibilities come to pass.
Its Asian assets attract little interest
Alongside its earnings report late last month, Groupon announced it was considering strategic alternatives for its Asian assets -- the crown jewel being Korean-based Ticket Monster. In the sessions that followed, Groupon shares have rallied more than 20%. Much of this gain may be due a quarter that was better than analysts had anticipated, but some is likely attributable to the promise of an Asian asset deal.
In its subsequent earnings call, Groupon's management explained that it wasn't seeking to sell all of its Asian assets, but was looking to monetize part of its holdings. A partial spin off, or sale of Groupon's Asian business, could allow the market to value that portion of Groupon separately, perhaps giving Groupon a valuable asset in the process.
But should those strategic alternatives never to come to pass -- if Groupon finds little demand for Ticket Monster and its other Asian businesses, Groupon shares could give back some of their recent gains. Exactly how much is unknown, but the lack of deal would likely be a negative for Groupon stock.
New initiatives fall flat
Groupon has been steadily transitioning itself away from the daily deals it was founded on, instead attempting to establish a mobile e-commerce platform centered around local merchants.
At first, Groupon changed the timing of its deals, shifting from individual daily coupons to longer-lasting discounts that could be searched for and purchased in a marketplace. Now, it's taking it a step further with new initiatives: Pages and Genome.
Pages attempts to increase Groupon's presence in search engines. Groupon merchants are given profile pages, which they can populate with information about their business and interact with their customers. Genome is a payment solution, giving Groupon merchants a tablet-based payment system they can use to more easily redeem active Groupon deals. In theory, both should improve the Groupon shopping experience.
The company's attempts to transition its business away from daily deals makes sense, but the local commerce platform it's attempting to build remains an unproven concept. If it succeeds, it could be a much more appealing business, with a larger economic moat and few competitors. But if the platform management promises never materializes, Groupon shares are likely to continue floundering.
Guidance continues to disappoint
Much of Groupon's 2014 sell off has been the byproduct of weak guidance. Although Groupon has largely hit analyst targets for individual quarters, the company has often offered up guidance that was below analysts' expectations.
In February, Groupon shares lost nearly one-fifth of their value after the company posted disappointing revenue guidance for the full fiscal-year. In August, guidance again came in light, with Groupon's third quarter earnings projections falling short of analyst estimates. Even its most recent report -- one that seems to have fueled a 20% gain in Groupon shares -- was tempered by weak expectations, with Groupon's outlook for fourth quarter earnings and revenue outlook worse than anticipated.
The problem may lie more with analysts than with Groupon, but management should do a better job at setting expectations. Further disappointment will likely lead to more pain for Groupon shareholders - especially if any of the above scenarios play out.