LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD.DL) announced revenue and non-GAAP (excluding one-time items) earnings per share that exceeded analyst expectations last quarter. Nevertheless, shareholders have been punished to the tune of a 14% share price decline since July 30.
The initial investor reaction to LinkedIn's 33% jump in sales (to $712 million) and non-GAAP EPS of $0.55 was a quick boost in after-hours buying. However, the good tidings were short-lived, thanks in large part to LinkedIn's guidance for the balance of 2015.
The good news is that expected revenue for the year of $2.94 billion is higher than most people had anticipated. The bad news is that LinkedIn's lofty sales projection is due to better-than-expected results from its Lynda.com acquisition, not its "core" businesses. But before the naysayers win the day, LinkedIn management would like to share a few things.
Lynda, Lynda, Lynda
As was the case a quarter earlier, the $1.5 billion deal to acquire online learning site Lynda.com -- and its anticipated positive impact -- was a hot topic in Q2. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner alluded to Lynda.com throughout the call, and thanks to an earlier-than-expected closing date and better performance, Lynda.com should add about $90 million to LinkedIn's top line for the year. That's up from the Q1 guidance of $40 million.
Weiner and LinkedIn CFO Steve Sordello did caution that Lynda.com has a long way to go before it reaches its full revenue-generating potential. Global expansion and better integration with LinkedIn's core services were both cited as priorities to maximize the value of Lynda.com, but neither will happen overnight. Similar to its fellow social-media giant Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and the monetization of acquisitions such as Instagram and WhatsApp, it will take time before LinkedIn's Lynda.com begins paying dividends.
The rise of talent, the fall of marketing
All three of LinkedIn's core businesses -- Talent Solutions, Marketing Solutions, and Premium Subscriptions -- grew last quarter compared with Q2 2014. However, the 38% increase in Talent Solutions revenue to $443 million led the way. The unit now makes up an even larger portion of total sales, at 62%. Premium Subscription sales also rose -- 22% year over year -- but this accounts for only 18% of total revenue, down from 20% in 2014.
The lack of revenue diversification is likely to become a larger issue going forward, thanks to the ongoing decline in display advertising sales in LinkedIn's Marketing Solutions unit. Display revenue dropped 30% in Q2, and that followed a 10% drop in Q1. According to Sordello, investors can expect more of the same from LinkedIn's display sales in the quarters ahead.
LinkedIn on the go
Like Lynda.com, another recurring theme from LinkedIn's Q2 conference call was its emphasis on mobile. Of its estimated 380 million members, over half now access LinkedIn via a mobile device. That pales in comparison with Facebook's recent quarter, in which about 90% of its users accessed the site each month from a mobile device. However, LinkedIn is still in the early stages of its mobile efforts.
Not surprisingly, Weiner pointed to mobile as a priority to drive future growth and suggested that the 60% improvement in user engagement last quarter was thanks in large part to LinkedIn's improved mobile experience.
A few more areas of focus
Investors may recall that it wasn't long ago that LinkedIn got the OK for mass introduction of its service to the fast-growing China market. According to Weiner, China now represents the second fastest growing market for new members, behind only the United States. With 10 million members in China, LinkedIn has more than doubled its usage in the past year. Europe, on the other hand, continues to lag, and Sordello suggested that investors can expect more of the same in the near future.
One thing Facebook is known for is its ability to target the right ad to the right person at the right time, thanks to its user data analytics capabilities. LinkedIn has nowhere near the capacity to utilize its user data as Facebook does, but Weiner plans on changing that. LinkedIn is "overhauling" its Marketing Solutions service to better target its ads. Will that jump-start growth in Marketing Solutions revenue? Like assimilating Lynda.com, international growth, improved revenue diversification, and mobile, the answer is probably "yes" -- but it will require some patience.