Friday, 17 August 2012

Groupon, the pioneer of coupons online shares tank -72%. Is this Deal fatigue?

That's Andrew Mason. CEO Groupon.

It seems like Daily deal sites are taking a knock if Chicago-based Groupon is anything to go by. Groupon pioneered the online coupon business for small business owners and at the time, really created a stir. It replaced the traditional paper coupon with online advantage.

Perhaps now, consumers have deal fatigue. it was once billed as "the fastest growing company ever!" by Forbes....and it reaching 1 billion in sales incredibly fast - well, not anymore.

Groupon, the onetime darling of the markets and online, floated in November at 20 usd a share. Today it's tanked down 72% at 5.55 usd with the nosedive starting on Tuesday and continuing. Analysts are slashing their share price forecasts. 

Its billings in the second quarter have fallen, its earnings are below forecast, active customers only growing by 3% at 38m, really little good news.

True, it's now profitable, turning a 100 m loss into a 28m profit. But it's a 4 billion business and a return of 28m on 4bn is considered to be barely generating a profit. 

And Groupon has itself to blame for creating a myriad of lookalikes like LivingSocial. Selling discount coupons to local businesses has become so competitive, margins are being reduced by the deal site from what was, an average of 50%.

CEO Andrew Mason played the Internet fool at the much hyped IPO last November, being photographed with a cat on his head, chugging beer at meetings - you know what I mean. Too cool for school. Forbes ran a story today titled, 'Groupon needs a new CEO now!'. And looking at his video, you know where they're coming from.

Of course, it and gamer Zynga, are suffering from a loss of market confidence following the Facebook debacle, but this seems to be more fundamental. 

Maybe, it's being suggested, people are just getting tired of deals giving 50% off your hair loss treatment, to ultimately find that it only applies if your birthday coincides with a full moon. In the Orion of Sagittarius. Or something.

Although I do know that some deal Irish sites, such as Grab One, are doing well.

Groupon also settled in April, an 8.5m usd lawsuit with people who claimed the expiry date on coupons were illegal. In October last, they had negative controversy over an accounting issue about the manner in which they dealt with their revenues.

Its valuation today is circa 3.6 billion usd, about half what it was offered by Google in 2010 and which it turned down. Yep, turned down 6 billion dollars.

What will happen here is that the online coupon business will consolidate and pretenders to the crown will evaporate - leaving a handful of good professional players.

One wonders if the pioneer of the business, will be one of them.