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Shutterstock Plunges on Weak Guidance, CFO Departure

By Dan Caplinger – Aug 6, 2015 at 10:51AM

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The provider of commercial images delivered solid second-quarter results, but investors are nervous about its future.


Source: Shutterstock.

Digital image provider Shutterstock (SSTK 0.24%) has helped huge numbers of users join the digital revolution, with imagery, videos, and other digital media that customers can use to enhance their online and mobile offerings and attract business of their own. Shutterstock's extensive library of pictures and clips gives it vast resources for customers to use, and coming into Thursday morning's release of its second-quarter financial results, Shutterstock investors wanted to see the digital company continue to grow quickly and gain more traction in the industry. Yet concerns about its future guidance and the unexpected resignation of Chief Financial Officer Tim Bixby caused a near-panic among shareholders following the release. Let's take a closer look at Shutterstock to see whether shareholders are right to be nervous.

Shutterstock delivers a mixed picture
Shutterstock's second-quarter financials showed that the digital company is still growing at a solid pace. Revenue climbed 30% to $104.4 million, which was only slightly slower than the 31% growth that investors had hoped to see. Shutterstock managed to beat expectations on the bottom line, with adjusted net income of $11.2 million working out to $0.31 per share, a penny better than the consensus forecast among investors.

Shutterstock saw continued growth in all of its key operating metrics. The number of paid downloads jumped 14% to 35.9 million, and the company managed to add an extra $0.33 per download of revenue to its coffers compared to last year's second quarter, hitting the $2.85 per download mark. New customers helped drive paid downloads higher, while enterprise-sales and on-demand offering strength helped boost revenue per download further.

Sales growth generally came from organic sources, with 27% higher revenue excluding foreign currency impacts and contributions from newly acquired music and sound effects specialist PremiumBeat and European photographic press agency Rex Features. Growth in images in Shutterstock's library continued to soar, climbing by nearly half to 57.2 million at the end of the quarter.

Founder and CEO Jon Oringer was pleased with the performance, noting that "the quality, breadth and diversity of our content library, along with unparalleled search functionality, continues to attract more users to our platform." Oringer also referred to long-term initiatives like its editorial partnership with Penske Media as contributing to growth as it seeks to keep "meeting the evolving needs of the creative community."

Is Shutterstock's future getting blurrier?
Despite the fairly solid results, what seems to have spooked investors is Shutterstock's look at the future. For the third quarter, it expects sales of $105 million to $108 million, which would represent a slowing of its growth rate to as little as 25%. Adjusted operating earnings of $18 million to $20 million would represent a sequential slowdown compared to second-quarter figures.

Looking further out, downgraded guidance without further explanation came as bad news. Full-year 2015 sales of $425 million to $430 million represented a cut from previous guidance of around $11 million to $14 million and would be well below the current expectation among investors for $440 million. Similarly, adjusted 2015 operating earnings of $82 million to $85 million were down from the company's previous range of $90 million to $94 million.

Even more surprising was the announcement that CFO Tim Bixby would be replaced by Steven Berns, who until this week was a member of Shutterstock's board of directors. Berns' role will be to "help drive the strategic vision of the company while leading the company's financial and legal functions," and Oringer has confidence that the new CFO will be "a critical part of our continued growth and success." Nevertheless, abrupt changes in the executive suite always come with a measure of consternation from shareholders, especially when results haven't lived up to expectations.

Shutterstock stock plunged in response to the combination of the earnings and CFO news, shedding a third of their value in the first half-hour of the regular trading session following the announcement. Investors might be overreacting to the slowdown in Shutterstock's growth rates, but with the stock at a high valuation, anything short of perfection could meet with disappointment from shareholders in the future.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Shutterstock. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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