February 10, 2012 / 3:20 PM / in 6 years

LinkedIn jumps on surge in paying users

(Reuters) - Shares of LinkedIn Corp LNKD.N jumped 17 percent on Friday, after the professional networking services company said the number of premium subscribers doubled during fiscal 2011 and forecast an upbeat first quarter.

The company’s shares, which have gained about 35 percent in value since hitting a year-low of $56.51 in November, rose to $89.69 in midday trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

They were, however, far below the $121.97 touched during their debut last May.

On Thursday, the company, which makes money by selling paid subscriptions to its members and by helping companies with hiring and marketing, said revenue from premium subscriptions surged 87 percent during the fourth quarter.

LinkedIn’s performance and outlook is keenly watched by investors as an indication of whether the business model of Internet companies is solid -- especially in light of the upcoming Facebook IPO.

“We view LNKD as arguably one of the strongest assets arising out of the 2011-2012 Internet IPO cycle,” Citigroup said in a research note to clients on Thursday.

The brokerage raised its price target on the stock to $90 from $83.15, but maintained its “neutral” rating saying it did not find the company’s current valuation compelling.

LinkedIn -- started in the living room of ex-PayPal executive Reid Hoffman in 2002 and officially launched in May 2003 -- is similar to Facebook in trying to connect people with each other but is much smaller and geared towards professionals.

Canaccord Genuity raised its price target on the stock by $10 to $95 and has a “buy” on the stock.

Reporting by Rachana Khanzode and Sayantani Ghosh in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das, Sreejiraj Eluvangal

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