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Yelp downgraded by Citi after disappointing 2019 forecast

Key Points
  • Yelp's 2019 forecast was below Wall Street's expectations.
  • "Valuation is also no longer cheap on a relative basis," Citi said on Thursday.
Yelp Inc. signage is displayed on a monitor on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Citi Research downgraded its rating on Yelp shares to neutral from buy, saying the company's recent 2019 earnings forecasts were "disappointing."

"The topline outlook points to more challenging near-term business conditions than we expected," Citi said in a note to investors on Thursday.

"Valuation is also no longer cheap on a relative basis," Citi added.

Yelp provided 2019 revenue guidance of 8 percent to 10 percent growth, which was below Wall Street's expectation of 10.5 percent according to FactSet. Additionally, the company expects revenue growth of 4 percent to 6 percent in the first quarter of 2019, far below the 10 percent to 12 percent analysts were expecting.

"If the company is able to reaccelerate growth in 2020 ... and it is able to achieve its 2023 targets ... there would be meaningful upside to our and consensus forecast," Citi said. "That said, current business trends do not support that outlook in our view."

Yelp shares rose nearly 2 percent in premarket trading from Wednesday's close of $38.46 a share. Citi has a $40 a share price target on Yelp's stock.