Groupon Investors Overlook Net Loss for Buyback and Permanent CEO and Chairman News

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How do you help businesses draw in new customers by bringing discounts to consumers and still lose money? That is the question that investors and watchers have for Groupon Inc. (GRPN). These may be tough questions about the core business when you include stock option expenses, but Groupon's stock is feeling some of the same after-earnings social media love that you saw last week in LinkedIn and Facebook. With a stock buyback plan and with a leadership team announcement, investors are driving up Groupon shares handily after the report.

Groupon's gross billings rose 10% to $1.41 billion, but growth of 30% in North America and 4% in EMEA nations was offset by a 21% decline in the rest of the world. Revenue rose by 7% to $608.7 million in the second quarter 2013, but North America revenue growth of 45% was offset by a 24% decline in EMEA and a 26% decline in rest of the world.

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Groupon said that its gross profit was $384.7 million in the second quarter, down from $433.2 million a year ago. Operating income was $27.4 million in the second quarter, down from $46.5 million a year ago but up $6.2 million from the first quarter. Earnings per share came to a loss of -$0.01 per share if you include stock options and  other items. The comparable earnings came to $0.02 per share, matching the Thomson Reuters estimate.

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Eric Lefkofsky has been named CEO and Ted Leonsis has been named Chairman of the Board. Groupon also announced that its board of directors has authorized the company to repurchase up to $300 million of its outstanding common stock over the next 24 months. Just keep in mind that the $300 million compares to a total stock market value of $5.6 billion or so.

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Groupon's third quarter guidance is as follows: revenue between $585 million and $635 million, operating income excluding stock compensation and acquisition-related expenses of between $20 million and $40 million, and EPS excluding stock-compensation and acquisition related expenses of -$0.01 to $0.01. Thomson Reuters has estimates of $0.05 EPS and $621.6 million in sales. Groupon reaffirmed its guidance that full year 2013 GAAP operating income will exceed $100 million.

Lefkofsky is representing that this significantly exceeded his operating income expectations and was the best quarter ever in North America with accelerated billings growth of 30%.  He also signaled that Groupon continue to gain traction in mobile, showing that nearly 50% of North American transactions came from mobile use in June and over 50 million people have downloaded Groupon apps worldwide.

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Groupon close3d up 2-cents at $8.72 against a 52-week trading range of $2.60 to $9.43, and shares are now up 13% at $9.84 in the after-hours trading session. We are having  a hard time finding any serious excitement here but Wall Street is treating the business as though it has turned the corner. We would point out that before the earnings report we had the consensus Thomson Reuters analyst price target down at $7.40.

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