Is Groupon Keeping Enough Money to Stay in Business?

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Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) opened Thursday’s regular trading session with nearly a quarter of its market cap missing. The beleaguered daily-deals operator posted fourth-quarter and full-year 2012 results after the closing bell on Wednesday that had longs running for the hills and shorts — about 14.4 percent of the float as of February 15 — seeing green.

Here’s a quick breakdown of Groupon’s recent performance:

4Q 2011 1Q 2012 2Q 2012 3Q 2012 4Q 2012 1Q 2013*
Revenue ($) in millions 492,164 559,283 568,335 568,552 638,302 560,000 – 610,000
Diluted EPS ($) (0.12) (0.02) 0.04 0.00 (0.12) -

*Groupon forecast.

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At a glance it’s easy to see that revenues increased respectably — 29.7 percent year over year — but earnings fell back into negative territory. For the year, revenue grew 45 percent to $2.33 billion, while the company’s earnings loss narrowed from -$1.03 to -$0.10 per share.

The two really disappointing parts of the report are a weak first-quarter forecast, and news that the company has cut its take rate, the amount of money generated by daily deals that Groupon keeps. Groupon’s first-quarter forecast suggests top-line growth between zero and 9 percent. Operating income for the quarter is expected in a range between positive and negative $10 million…

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