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Groupon chief executive officer Andrew Mason, centre (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
Groupon chief executive officer Andrew Mason, centre (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

Groupon posts quarterly loss as taxes bite Add to ...

Groupon Inc. reported a loss on Wednesday as user growth slowed from the breakneck pace of past quarters, potentially signalling consumer fatigue with daily deals and wiping 13 per cent off its shares.

In its first results report since going public, the daily deals company founded by Andrew Mason said it recorded higher taxes overseas that resulted in a net loss, although Wall Street had on average bet on a small profit.

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Groupon paid $35-million (U.S.) in taxes during the quarter, for an effective tax rate of 1,600 per cent. That was driven by income generated in some countries outside the United States and tax provisions related to Groupon’s new international headquarters in Switzerland.

“This makes us a good corporate citizen,” said chief financial officer Jason Child. But he added that the company’s tax rate in the future will likely be about 33 per cent.

Worldwide active users – those who bought a deals coupon, or groupon, within the past 12 months – rose 20 per cent quarter-on-quarter to over 33 million at the end of December, the company said.

That marked a 275 per cent jump from the same period a year earlier, but analysts said it was lower than expected, while others pointed to a lacklustre revenue forecast for the first quarter that suggested flat growth.

“That suggests there are fewer newer customers, consumer fatigue and the impact from lower marketing spending,” said Sameet Sinha, an analyst at B Riley. “That means not enough people are buying groupons.”

Groupon said its fourth-quarter net loss attributable to common stockholders was $42.7-million, or 8 cents a share. That compares with a loss of $378.6-million, or $1.08 a share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, Groupon reported a fourth-quarter loss of 2 cents a share. Revenue was $506.5-million, up 194 per cent from the final quarter of 2010.

Groupon was expected to make 3 cents a share profit on revenue of $475-million in the fourth quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The Chicago-based company’s shares slumped about 13 per cent to $21.35 in after-hours trading following the results.

On Wednesday, Groupon forecast revenue of $510-million to $550-million in the first quarter of 2012, a slight increase from 2011’s fourth quarter.

There was “some concern that the guidance looks flattish, sequentially,” said Raymond James’ Aaron Kessler. “Maybe investors are looking for a little bit more growth on a sequential basis.”

 

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