A dot-com dud is showing signs of life. Shares of Groupon (GRPN -2.74%) moved 18% higher last week after posting well-received quarterly results -- for a change.
The holiday quarter for the leading daily deals provider may not seem all that spectacular at first. Gross billings clocked in at $1.71 billion for the period, roughly the same total dollar value of customer purchases that it scored a year earlier. However, back out currency fluctuations and gross billings would've risen by 4%. More importantly, North American billings increased 11%. The rest of the world is naturally going the other way, but Groupon has already been staging a retreat from many overseas markets. Groupon's future rests closer to home, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
To be fair, this is nearly a carbon copy of Groupon's previous quarter. The third quarter also featured an 11% year-over-year uptick in North American billings, held back by declines everywhere else. However, shares of Groupon hit a new all-time low following that report, plunging 26% on the week.
A big reason why the market is loving a similar report this time around is that expectations were loftier three months ago. Groupon's performance fell short of Wall Street's top-line target at the time. It actually landed ahead of where the pros were perched this time around, and that includes a surprise adjusted profit. Analysts were holding out for Groupon to merely break even.
It also helps that the stock kicked off this week a lot lower than it did three months ago. It may have hit new lows following the third quarter report, but this time it was hitting even lower all-time lows -- down to as much as $2.15 -- ahead of the Thursday night report.
That was a bit much for a company that's been profitable on an adjusted basis and still growing its stateside businesses. Groupon closed the year with no debt and $853.4 million in cash. After massive share buybacks over the past year, that works out to $1.40 a share. Back that out and Groupon was trading for pocket change.
Another positive development is that it boosted its guidance this time around. It was a different story three months ago when its outlook fell short of where analyst projections.
One final thing worth noting is that investors were let down during the third quarter because it's when it announced that COO Rich Williams was going to be its new CEO. Investors were hoping for a game-changing outsider to step up and lead the way.
A single well-received report doesn't mark a turnaround. Groupon still has a long way to go, and even after last week's pop, the stock is still slightly in the red in 2016. The stock got crushed in 2014 and 2015. It has given up 75% of its value since the end of 2013. Armed with cash and domestic growth prospects, Groupon isn't going away as a company. Investors are the ones that have been going away, but there are some whiffs that Groupon may finally be turning things around.