Yelp shares pop 15% despite lackluster earnings

Key Points
  • Yelp reports third-quarter earnings Thursday that leave much to be desired for investors.
  • But Yelp shares climbed more than 15% on Friday.
  • While the company's fourth-quarter guidance falls below expectations, it appears to be better than investors feared as the app faces increasing competition from Google.
Jeremy Stoppelman, chief executive officer of Yelp Inc., center, rings the opening bell with Chief Operating Officer Geoff Donaker, second left, and Chief Financial Officer Rob Krolik, right, at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Friday, March 2, 2012.

Yelp shares closed more than 15% higher on Friday despite the company reporting an earnings miss Thursday.

While the crowdsourced reviews company reported third-quarter earnings on Thursday that missed expectations on the bottom line and barely topped revenue expectations, shares closed 15.44% higher Friday. Yelp reported earnings per share of $0.14, falling short of $0.19 expected, and the company posted revenues of $262.47 million versus $262.25 million expected.

Despite a no-frills third quarter, investors were heartened by Yelp's fourth-quarter guidance.

"Yelp reported mostly inline 3Q19 results, and guided to 4Q19 revenue and adjusted EBITDA growth below Street expectations, but still better than many investors feared," Wedbush analysts wrote in a note Friday. "While slightly below consensus, 4Q guidance still implies revenue acceleration into the low-teens and continued margin expansion."

Yelp posted fourth-quarter guidance expecting 11% to 13% revenue growth and an adjusted EBITDA margin increase of 2% to 3%. The company underscored the changing industry, rising sales and marketing costs, difficulties maintaining high-quality user-generated content and retention of advertisers as ongoing risks.

Some of the investor excitement may be because third-quarter earnings imply that Yelp has yet to be significantly hurt by increased competition with Google. However, some investors are more bearish on the stock, unsure if Yelp will remain competitive moving forward.

"Yelp's 3Q results seemed unaffected from increased search changes and competition, and the company attributes this to success with the app. Nevertheless, threats from search, Google Maps, and vertical specific players continue to loom," a note from Raymond James said Friday. "Given the degree of acceleration implied in 4Q guidance, small changes in the search funnel and competitive landscape could carry a disproportionate impact."

Yelp co-founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman responded to investor concerns about advertising competition with Google by emphasizing increased regulatory scrutiny against Google and the growth of the Yelp app.

"Obviously there's always going to be some volatility on the [search engine optimization] side as Google tweaks algorithms, but we feel great about all the engagement we see on our Yelp app and continue to see overall engagement at a healthy rate," Stoppelman said during the company's earnings call Thursday.

Big tech antitrust investigations will likely take years, WSJ reporter says
Big tech antitrust investigations will likely take years, WSJ reporter says