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What to Look for in LinkedIn Earnings

Thursday, 7 Feb 2013 | 11:05 AM ET
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When LinkedIn reports earnings after the bell Thursday, analysts will be digging through the results to see if the company's growth merits its stock move higher.

By a large margin, LinkedIn is the most successful stock in the social space by far—it's up over 60 percent in the past 12 months.

LinkedIn has had a big quarter in terms of user milestones: It hit 200 million members worldwide. The fact that Facebook launched job boards didn't seem to have any impact on LinkedIn's growth trajectory. (Read More: Watch Out LinkedIn, Facebook Just Launched a Jobs App.)

LinkedIn is expected to report earnings of 19 cents per share, up 56 percent from a year ago. Revenue is projected to soar 67 percent to $280 million.

But the real numbers to watch are its overall margins and its performance in international markets. While more than two-thirds of LinkedIn's users are now outside the U.S., those international margins generate just 36 percent of total revenues.

(Read More: Where Do LinkedIn's Biggest Influencers Work?)

Investors are also looking for growth in its "talent solutions" business—recruiting tools sold to businesses. As the economy strengthens, Wall Street wants to see that companies are increasingly shifting their human resources budgets over to LinkedIn.

Guidance will also be in focus.

Morgan Stanley's Scott Devitt, with an "overweight" rating on the stock, warned that LinkedIn's 2013 guidance "could come in below consensus forecasts as investors' expectations have drastically risen due to consistent outperformance."

(Read More: 10 LinkedIn Tweaks We'd Like to See in 2013.)

Devitt said investors have become accustomed to LinkedIn's management being more conservative, which means they now expect management to guide lower than results.

—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin; Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.