By BARBARA ORTUTAY, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Signaling a change of fortunes, online deals company Groupon Inc. posted a smaller net loss and sharply higher revenue in the first quarter, helped by increased demand from a growing customer base.
Its revenue surpassed Wall Street's expectations and Groupon's stock shot up nearly 18 percent in after-hours trading. It was a welcome reprieve for the newly public company that's seen its stock battered following a series of missteps with its finances.
Groupon said Monday that its net loss was $11.7 million, or 2 cents per share, in the January-March period. It posted a loss of $146.5 million, or 48 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2011 when it was still privately held.
Excluding special items such as stock-compensation expenses, Groupon earned 2 cents per share in the latest quarter, matching Wall Street's estimates.
Revenue grew 89 percent to $559.3 million from $295.5 million a year earlier.
Analysts, on average, were expecting revenue of $530.5 million, according to a poll by FactSet. Groupon itself had forecast revenue of $510 million to $550 million.
"We are pleased to report a record quarter that demonstrates our progress in unlocking the opportunity in local commerce for merchants and customers worldwide," said CEO Andrew Mason. He said the company has started to see the benefits of new technologies, such as its "SmartDeals" program, which aims to make deals more relevant to users depending on where they are and who they are, for example.
Chicago-based Groupon went public in November, pricing its stock at $20 per share. Since February, though, the shares have declined steadily. In a recent letter to shareholders, Mason acknowledged that the six months since the company's initial public offering have been "rocky to say the least."
In March, the company restated its quarterly financial results, explaining that it lost more than it initially reported because it had to pay out more refunds than expected. Earlier this month, it replaced two of its board members to add executives with more accounting experience.
Groupon ended the quarter with 36.9 million active customers, up from 15.4 million at the end of the prior-year's first quarter. Often criticized for its spending to acquire new subscribers, Groupon said it added roughly the same number of customers as it did in the fourth quarter but spent 25 percent less on marketing.
First-quarter marketing costs fell 49 percent to $116.6 million from $230.1 million in the same 2011 period.
For the current quarter, Groupon forecast revenue of between $550 million and $590 million. Analysts are forecasting second-quarter revenue of $560.3 million.
Its stock rose $2.11, or 17.9 percent, to $13.84 in after-hours trading on Monday.
Investors appeared to have been anticipating upbeat news from the earnings report, which came out after the close of trading on Wall Street. Groupon's stock gained $1.84, or 18.5 percent, to $11.74 in the regular session.
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