Criteo Logo

Credit: Criteo SA (ADR)

Criteo SA (ADR) (NASDAQ:CRTO) maintained its strong top-line growth despite even stronger currency headwinds this quarter. But with shares of the performance marketing specialist down more than 16% after it released third-quarter results Wednesday, it's obvious the market isn't pleased.

Quarterly revenue excluding traffic acquisition costs, or ex-TAC, increased 55% year over year (47% at constant currency) to 120.3 million euros, driven by a combination of continued technology improvements across all device platforms, continued development of direct relationships with publishers, and the addition of 720 net new customers during the quarter. Criteo's client retention rate also remained above 90%. And according to Criteo CEO JB Rudelle, roughly 90% of all clients were using Criteo's multi-screen solution in September, while its new "Universal Match" cross-device solution is enjoying rapid adoption.

Meanwhile, adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization grew 58% (55% at constant currency) to 31 million euros. On the bottom line, adjusted net income declined to 11 million euros, or 0.16 euros per diluted share, down from 0.26 euros per share in the same year-ago period.

Similar to last quarter's report, analysts' consensus estimates called for higher earnings of 0.18 euros per share, but lower revenue ex-TAC of 117.9 million euros. For perspective, however, note that Criteo doesn't provide specific per-share earnings guidance. But it did tell investors last quarter to expect lower third-quarter revenue between 116 million euros and 118 million euros, and adjusted EBITDA between 21 million euros and 23 million euros. Once again, it appears Wall Street simply overestimated Criteo's bottom line. 

Digging deeper
Revenue ex-TAC in the Americas continued to drive overall growth, increasing 88% year over year (67% at constant currency) to 43 million euros, but also remaining steady from last quarter at around 36% of sales. Growth from the Asia-Pacific region wasn't far behind, with revenue ex-TAC increasing 59% year over year (53% at constant currency) to 25 million euros, or 21% of Criteo's total. And growth in Criteo's core EMEA region remained healthy, with revenue ex-TAC increasing 34% year over year (33% at constant currency) to $52 million, or 43% of Criteo's worldwide total.

Regarding the bottom-line decline, remember that Criteo is strategically investing heavily to continue to scale its business. Excluding share-based compensation, operating expenses climbed 54% year over year during the quarter to 81 million euros, driven primarily by a 56% increase in headcount related to Research & Development, and 44% jump in headcount related to Sales & Operations roles. In these early stages of Criteio's growth story, these investments are crucial to grabbing market share and increasing Criteo's top-line.

Looking forward
"Our investments and our strong execution are paying off," explained Criteo CFO Benoit Fouilland, "and we're confident we will deliver strong results for the full year."

More specifically, for the fourth quarter Criteo expects revenue ex-TAC between 134 million euros and 139 million euros (or 41.7% growth at the midpoint), and adjusted EBITDA between 39 million and 46 million. However, the former range technically falls short of analysts' models, which called for fourth-quarter revenue ex-TAC of $141.6 million. 

For the full year 2015 -- and despite its relative outperformance in Q3 -- that means Criteo still anticipates revenue ex-TAC arriving between 470 million euros and 475 million euros, with adjusted EBITDA between 120 million euros and 127 million euros. Wall Street's models had predicted 2015 revenue ex-TAC slightly above the high end of Criteo's outlook.

To be fair, Criteo explained compared to its full-year expectations outlined three months ago, it was able to reaffirm 2015 guidance despite an additional 4 million-euro negative impact from foreign exchange to revenue ex-TAC, and an incremental 2 million-euro negative impact from currencies to adjusted EBITDA. And of course, there's always the very likely possibility that Criteo could be underpromising with the intention of once again overdelivering when all is said and done this year.

But for now, it seems the market is unimpressed by what otherwise appears to be a very impressive performance from Criteo.

Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Criteo. 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.