* Shares dive after disappointing revenue forecast
* Advertising growth moderate, recruiting services strong
(Adds CFO comments, analyst comments, details from call)
By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO, May 2 LinkedIn Corp
shares fell 10 percent on Thursday after disappointing revenue
forecasts suggested that a revamped mobile app and other new
products designed to keep smartphone users engaged will not
deliver on advertising growth as quickly as anticipated.
The social network that targets professional users and
specializes in recruiting services has in past months introduced
a series of enhancements such as news content for mobile
devices, to keep users signed in longer and sell more
But on Thursday, executives warned that its advertising
business will undergo "a more moderate growth" than its other
services. Its fledgling, mobile-oriented "newsfeed" ads - or
promotions that appear directly in a users' stream of content -
remained in testing and would only be introduced gradually.
"We're seeing some encouraging early signs but it's off a
very small scale right now," LinkedIn Finance Chief Steve
Sordello said on a conference call on Thursday.
The weaker-than-expected forecast came as LinkedIn's
financial results for the first three months of the year blew
past analysts estimates, marking the eighth consecutive quarter
the company topped Wall Street targets.
The winning streak has helped drive the stock up 74 percent
since the start of the year, creating what some analysts said
were overheated Wall Street expectations.
"The stock is somewhat a victim of its own success," said
Needham & Co analyst Kerry Rice.
"They had a really big acceleration in Q4," said Rice. "So I
think the market kind of expected similar results in Q1 and
LinkedIn said its current-quarter revenue would range from
$342 million to $347 million, below the $359.3 million expected
on average by analysts.
Although LinkedIn hiked its full-year revenue forecast by
$20 million on Thursday, the high end of the forecast range was
below the average analyst estimate of $1.49 billion, according
to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
RISING PAGE VIEWS
LinkedIn, with 225 million members, has been a star in a
mostly disappointing social media sector, outperforming the
stock market performance of companies such as Facebook Inc
and Zynga Inc.
But LinkedIn's business faces the same challenge confronting
all Web companies, as consumers increasingly access the Internet
through smartphones instead of PCs.
Last month, LinkedIn introduced revamped mobile apps that
will for the first time allow it to show ads on smartphones'
small screens. And it has introduced various new features in
recent months aimed at enticing members to spend more time on
Those efforts appear to be bearing some fruit, with LinkedIn
reporting that page views increased 63 percent year-on-year in
the first quarter.
"Their overall engagement relative to Facebook on a per
member basis is still very low," said Tom White, an analyst with
But, he said, the stream of new features and products
unveiled by LinkedIn in recent months are causing members to
visit the site more often - which would help its ad business
LinkedIn's recruiting business, which accounts for 57
percent of LinkedIn's total revenue, performed strongly in the
first quarter will continue to grow at a healthy clip throughout
the year, the company said on Thursday.
Net income for the first quarter rose to $22.6 million, or
20 cents a share, from $5 million, or 4 cents a share, over the
same period. Excluding certain items, LinkedIn said it earned 45
cents a share in the first quarter, well above the 31 cents
expected by analysts.
Revenue in the first three months of the year rose 72
percent to $324.7 million from $188.5 million in the year-ago
LinkedIn shares slid about 10 percent to $181 from a close
of $201.67 on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Richard Chang and