Yahoo! reports Q4 earnings on Tues, Jan 29, at 5:00 PM EST / 2PM PST. The company had strong momentum coming out of last quarter, and most media companies said advertising revenue remained strong through December. These two factors suggest that Q4 revenue will be fine*. The critical part of the earnings call, however, will be:
- Outlook for Q1 and 2008 (some analysts think Yahoo will issue guidance below the current consensus)
- Search, display, and user trends (recent trends awful)
- Number of layoffs (if any).
(*This just in: A well-placed source tells us that Yahoo’s Q4 will be not “fine,” but strong. Based on the source’s conviction, we now think Yahoo will likely surprise on the upside.)
The stock is so washed out that, from a financial perspective, anything but “horrible” should be viewed as good news. That said, it’s hard to think of a business in which Yahoo is still gaining share, let alone dominating, and Comscore suggests that the company’s user trends got even worse in Q4. The challenge for Jerry, Sue, and Blake will be to reassure bludgeoned shareholders and employees that the company is in good hands–and, in so doing, stave off the quiet but inexorable advances of private-equity and strategic buyers and corporate headhunters.
Consensus for Key Q4 Metrics (See this spreadsheet for details)
- Gross Revenue of $1.93 billion
- Net Revenue of $1.41 billion, towards the high-end of guidance of between $1.31bn and $1.45bn. Whispers calling for some upside here.
- EPS of $0.11 (Whispers as high as $0.14)
- Marketing Services Revenue (before Blue Lithium acquisition): +13%-14%
- Fees: 7%-8%
Current 2008 Consensus
- Net Revenue of $5.92 billion (Some analysts, including Heath Terry, think Yahoo will guide down here).
- EPS of $0.53
Underlying user, search, and pageview trends are critical for the long-term value of the company, and third-party data during the quarter weren’t encouraging.
According to Heath Terry at Credit Suisse, Yahoo saw global search query share fall from 13.8% in Q3 to 12.7% (We think its headed to single digits). Terry says total search queries are tracking up 2% sequentially with click through rates up 1.9% q/q, and he estimates that search could be up 3% q/q in Q4. Terry is also filled with gloom about pageview trends, particularly in high value verticals like finance (-17% y/y), autos (-2% y/y), movies (-10% y/y), and travel (-22% y/y).
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