So the Groupon IPO is apparently going to finally happen -- and likely within the next couple of weeks. The once-high-flying daily deal Web social company is getting there with a bit of a limp -- instead of sailing smoothly into the public stock launch that it appeared on track to do a few months ago.
But unless the stock market goes haywire between now and Nov. 4, when Chicago-based Groupon is set to launch on the NASDAQ under the trading symbol GRPN, the long-anticipated Groupon IPO will become a reality. It just will be much less real in terms of return than it once appeared. This is because ever since Groupon made public its plans to take its stock public, the markets have cooled considerably, and Groupon's high-flying momentum has slowed, considerably.
Once as hot as the best deal of the day, Groupon seems to have more detractors these days than fans when it comes to investing. Groupon's 30-year-old founder and CEO Andrew Mason will hit the road for the obligatory dog and pony show to try to pump up anticipation among Wall Street types before the stock launches, and he's got a mighty challenge in front of him.
Just months ago, Groupon was heading toward an IPO valuation of between $25 billion to $30 billion. Now, the Groupon IPO will launch 30 million shares at $16 to $18 each, according to a recent SEC filing, which values the daily deal company at roughly $11.5 billion. Talk about a big dip in value in a short time.
At that price, and based on SEC filing information, three-year-old Groupon will trade for the initial shares sold at between six and seven times earnings, with a market cap bigger than Best Buy, the electronics retailer that has been around for years. For some, that discounted price compared to what Groupon was reportedly worth months ago might seem like a wonderful buying opportunity.
But unless you are a day trader hoping to simply make some quick bucks on the IPO launch before getting out in the next day or few, this might be one new stock to avoid. Here are five reasons why Groupon's IPO isn't a good investment for the medium or long term:
1) Many small businesses have found they don't like using Groupon. They have realized the costs and frustrations can be too high for the reward.
The cost is high -- first, there is effectively a 75 percent discount or more on products or services that small businesses must be willing to stomach -- and second, Groupon gets half the money taken in from consumers -- and third, and many bargain shoppers are one-time visitors. They didn't come through the doors before, and most don't come again once their coupon is used.
So what's the point?
It's just a hassle, and that's an immediate and long-term problem, since there's little Groupon can do to solve that issue considering that high volume and good deals are keys to the equation.
2) Too many daily deal shoppers have found the deals aren't so great any more. That's not to say Groupon isn't still selling cheap goods or services through its daily deals. It is, and studies have shown that Groupon's deals, based upon price, are consistently the best. But just because something is cheap doesn't mean that it's good.
Many daily deal shoppers are shying away over consistent problems involving the quality equation. First, businesses that do the deals are often so overwhelmed by responses that their service can barely keep up with the demand. So the deal comes at a discount, but so does the return.
Second, if the deal involves a service like a spa treatment or visit, getting appointments amid the rush before the deal expires can be difficult.
The deal looked good, and it was priced right -- but many buy the deal and then never use it, or get full satisfaction. Thus, many who have tried daily deals aren't going back. And that's a problem.
3) Groupon founder and CEO Mason isn't exactly Steve Jobs, the late Apple co-founder and long-time CEO. Mason is known to be a bit flaky, emotional and not always on track. He got into a tiff with Wall Street months ago, when the company first filed papers to go public, over the profitability of the company, for instance. Groupon said it was profitable. Wall Street said that Groupon wasn't profitable, but rather was using, instead, a generally non-accepted accounting method that wrongly showed that Groupon was profitable.
Groupon and Mason relented, changing its accounting practices to reveal that no, the company wasn't profitable. In the meantime, Mason got overly sensitive about what he decried as unfair detractors. They often say in investing you bet on the horse, which means the CEO. Good money says Mason is a bit too goofy.
4) Speaking of losses, many are concerned that Groupon is still losing too much money to make for a good investment at this point. A company with strong growth prospects could overcome loss issues, but with Groupon's growth in question the losses are a problem. It's true that Groupon has managed its losses better than previously. In the third quarter of this year, Groupon's operating loss was reportedly only $239,000, which is better than the $56 million loss it reported in the same period one year earlier.
But there is concern that is probably legitimate that Groupon has simply run a good numbers game to get losses in check so it could go public and raise much-needed capital. Some wonder if there's not some nasty black box that will be revealed next year after Groupon's IPO has been launched. The truth is probaby somewhere in between, but that's good enough reason to sit this one out to see where Groupon's numbers settle.
5) The market is shifting away from its recent love affair of questionable tech companies. Earlier this year a Dot Com Bubble 2 was underway, as Internet companies like Pandora, LinkedIn and Zillow had blockbuster IPO's. But that was then, and this is now. After world markets got shaky and global economic concerns rose amid slow growth and unmanageable Euro debt, that trend began to shift.
There's good reason to think that entrenched, cash-laden companies with time-tested products and services are coming back en vogue. A good dividend doesn't hurt, either. Groupon is the antithesis of this investment model, and that's another reason to avoid the stock unless you are one of the few who can get in at the IPO price of $16 to $18 and spin it for a quick buck.
Otherwise, jumping on board when the stock likely trades at $25 or higher is likely to come with high risk, as it won't be much of a deal that day.