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Friday, November 30, 2012

Groupon shares slump as CEO stays put

Groupon Inc.'s shares fell more than 10 percent, a day after the online daily deals company's board backed founder-CEO Andrew Mason, disappointing investors who hoped for a leadership change.

The company's shares, which have lost about 85 percent of their value since Groupon's high-profile Wall Street debut last year, were down more than 10 percent late in the trading day Friday, at $4.07.

The five-year-old company, known for transforming local business advertising by marketing internet discounts on everything from spa treatments to dining, has seen its business cooling since it debuted on the Nasdaq at $28 per share.

Much of the blame has fallen on Mason. The stock surged 12 percent on Wednesday, when he said he would fire himself if needed.

However, analysts reckon Mason still has the vision to grow the business.

"I can see that he still has a few arrows left in his quiver to generate additional value forGroupon," analyst Daniel Kurnos from the Benchmark Co. said.

He pointed to the faith that investors like Tiger Global Management are showing in the daily deals model.
Tiger Global, a technology-focused hedge fund, disclosed an about 10 percent stake inGroupon earlier this month. Its other recent bets include Facebook Inc and Amazon Inc.

"(Mason) has done a great job to grow the company to this point, and I think that there is a path to profitability for them if they can continue to execute on the Groupon goods side of the business and if the deals model is sustainable," Kurnos said.

B. Riley & Co analyst Sameet Sinha said investors may be looking for an outsider to come in and take a fresh look at the business but that the board is looking for help closer home.

"What Andrew is doing is that he is creating a deep bench of executives who will be able to run the company, execute and operate, while he focuses on the higher level stuff," he said.

"That's what the plan is and that's the reason why the board is giving (Mason) room to operate it."

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