Tech

Barry Diller calls for an end to 'absurd' earnings guidance, says his firms won't do it anymore

Key Points
  • Barry Diller, chairman of Expedia and digital media group IAC, told CNBC his companies will no longer provide earnings guidance.
  • "Guidance is a bad business. We're out. We're not doing it anymore," the billionaire businessman told "Squawk Box" on Friday.
  • Many companies suspended earnings guidance due to the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Diller hopes that trend will become permanent.
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Barry Diller: Expedia and IAC will no longer provide earnings guidance

Barry Diller, chairman of Expedia and digital media group IAC, told CNBC on Friday his companies will no longer provide long-term earnings forecasts. 

"Guidance is a bad business. We're out. We're not doing it anymore," the billionaire businessman told "Squawk Box."

Diller said the amount of time companies spend to develop guidance is "wasteful" and that employees' time would be better spent "actually doing some work."

"The whole thing is nuts," he added.

Many companies suspended earnings guidance due to the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Diller said it gave Expedia and IAC the opportunity to say it would no longer be issuing it and he wants other corporations to do the same.  

"I would hope that this period would allow all these companies to say, 'Be gone with your guidance.' It's not a good game. Spend your time actually figuring out where you should invest your money, how you should run your company," he said. "I'd love it as a practice to end for everybody." 

Earnings guidance has long been a punching bag on Wall Street, although proponents argue it helps keep companies accountable to shareholders.

Diller disagreed, calling that line of thinking "absurd." He argued, "I mean, it keeps companies accountable? It keeps companies doing dumbass work."

Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett and JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon teamed up in 2018 to call for the end of the practice of issuing earnings projections. Dimon told CNBC at the time that the Business Roundtable group of CEOs threw support behind companies backing away from giving outlook. Berkshire Hathaway does not provide guidance. Buffett told CNBC then the practice can tempt executives to manipulate numbers to meet or beat expectations.

Diller agreed, saying that providing quarterly guidance and full-year outlooks "made some sense" when the practice began. But now it has lost its value, he said. 

"Companies spend too much time massaging the process, getting the model right, so that they can always beat, not miss expectations, and the markets are always reactionary on that wildly short-term, dumbness of what happened in the next quarter," Diller said, adding the models are "based on a phony premise." 

"You cannot predict the future. Full stop," he said. 

Expedia Group's brands include Expedia, Hotels.com, and Trivago, while IAC's brands include Ask.com, video-sharing service Vimeo and news site The Daily Beast.