Groupon shares drop on Q1 revenue miss, shutters businesses in 11 more markets

Groupon — the once-dominant daily deals business that has more recently tried to shift to other kinds of local commerce — today reported first-quarter earnings that pointed to a company still in transition — or struggling to turn itself around more successfully, depending on how you look at it.

Dragged down by a 5.5 percent decline in its core market of North America, Groupon’s revenues came in at $673.6 million, with non-GAAP earnings per share at $0.01. This was a mixed result: analysts had expected sales of $724.4 million, a big miss for Groupon. EPS fared much better: average predictions were for a loss per share of -$0.01.

Those basic numbers had a pretty hard hit on the company’s share price, which was down 13 percent in pre-market trading and now down by as much as 17.5% in active trading to $3.31 per share. (We’ll update this number as the day progresses.)

It’s a big contrast to last quarter’s results, which sent the company’s stock up 24 percent.

Adjusted EBITDA, another metric that Groupon uses to measure its profitability, was up 42 percent year-on-year to $44.8 million, beating analyst consensus of $37 million.

“In the first quarter, we continued to make solid progress in our mission to be the daily habit in local commerce,” said CEO Rich Williams in a statement. “Our focus on growing customers in our marketplace, significantly improving the customer experience and continuing to streamline and simplify our business helped drive a 42 percent year-over-year increase in Adjusted EBITDA and gross profit of $309 million for the quarter.”

The company has been on a long road of trying to cut out less profitable parts of its business and refocus itself as a smaller organization on what is working well.

Today, Groupon announced that it had reached its goal of cutting down its operations to 15 markets in total, exiting 11 in the last quarter alone. At its peak, the company had local Groupon operations in nearly 50 countries.

(Interestingly, some businesses that Groupon has exited appear to be faring better as independents. Ticket Monster in Korea just last week raised $115 million on a $1.4 billion valuation.)

Gross profit in the company’s remaining international business was down by 15 percent to $88.5 million as the company “experienced some execution challenges and short-term disruption from our country exits.” The company now has 16.7 million international active customers.

The question is what investors’ appetite will be for whatever comes next at Groupon. There are some signs that there is a method to its madness, so to speak. The company says that its decline in its revenues in North America, which were $473 million, was down to the company shifting its focus from Goods to Local services, a push in part bolstered by its acquisition of LivingSocial last year.

Goods not only is a smaller-margin business, but it’s been in decline, down 12 percent in revenues.

But just anecdotally, there are some question marks over how Groupon is winning over new business. A colleague of mine noted that he recently picked up a Local deal, for go-karting, but only because he’d been sent a 50 percent-off voucher from the company.

There are now 31.6 million active customers in North America, after Groupon added 500,000 this past quarter. Globally the company has 48.3 million active customers.