Shares of LivePerson (NASDAQ:LPSN) opened sharply lower on Thursday after serving up unappetizing results for the fourth quarter. The proactive chat support specialist also followed up the fresh financials with an uninspiring outlook for the current quarter. The stock opened 21% lower, trading down by as much as 26% just minutes later.
Revenue rose a meager 2% since the prior year's fourth quarter, or 5% if we adjust for currency fluctuations. The $59.2 million it recorded on the top line is at the low end of earlier guidance calling for revenue to clock in between $59 million and $60 million.
Perhaps more importantly, this is the second time over the past three quarters that LivePerson delivers a sequential decline on the top line. That's a pretty big deal since it was touting an impressive streak of 51 quarters in a row of sequential revenue growth that ended early in 2015. LivePerson can talk up the many new deals that it's been inking -- it signed 122 new deals during the quarter, including 25 new customers -- but the end result is that something's not right if sequential revenue growth continues to slide.
The silver lining in the report is that adjusted earnings came in at $4.1 million, or $0.07 a share, reversing a small loss from the prior year's fourth quarter.
It's only going to get worse. LivePerson's targeting revenue of $55 million to $56 million for the new quarter is sizable sequential dip. It would also be LivePerson's first period as a public company that it fails to deliver year-over-year revenue growth, ending another enviable streak that will end at 54 quarters of year-over-year growth. Even if it lands at the high end of its range we're eyeing a 6% year-over-year slide from the $59.8 million it recorded in revenue during the first quarter of last year, the final quarter in its now fading but still impressive streak of 51 quarters of sequential top-line growth.
The rest of the year isn't going to be anything to write home about, unless you like to write home about languishing businesses that have seen better days. LivePerson anticipates roughly flat revenue on a currency-adjusted basis for all of 2016, or down 2% to 4% on a reported basis. This should also be its fourth consecutive year of posting a loss on a reported basis, and the adjusted profit that it's modeling of $0.05 a share to $0.10 a share is less than what it scored in 2015.
LivePerson was hoping that its "intelligent engagement" offering that incorporates chat, voice, and content delivery support would help keep its customers close and new leads coming, but that's not happening. It now has half of its clients on Live Engage, but the revenue growth isn't happening.
It's losing some customers that either don't see the strategic merit in providing live chat support or are wooed by cheaper alternatives. Retention is higher on a dollar basis than a customer basis, and that means that it's keeping most of its big spenders. However, now that the growth outlook is cloudy if not outright dim it's hard to get too excited.
There's a reason why the stock hit a new 52-week low today. LivePerson now needs to show that it can live up to its corporate moniker and produce a pulse.
Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends LivePerson. 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.