Is Groupon Really a "Buy"?


Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) is a troubled company under questionable leadership where IPO investors have been crushed. Long gone are the days of a $6 billion or $7 billion buyout offer from Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) back before this IPO. Groupon was raised to Buy from Neutral bt Stern Agee on Wednesday. We cannot help but wonder if this is really a long-term buy or whether this is just a chance to get out again at a higher price.

For starters, Stern Agee's Arvind Bhatia specifically said in the upgrade that this is not endorsement of a quarterly earnings report. His call is based on the daily deals business is evolving via a more constructive long-term view. The upgrade was based on turning the international strategy around and leveraging its mobile efforts. The main assumption here is that Groupon can emerge beyond a push company that sends deals out to a model where consumers can start searching for more current deals. Bhatia thinks that Groupon's share price can rise to $9.00.

The latter point here is one that has been a serious issue for Groupon. It used to be that you went to Groupon's site and had to submit your email address if you were not logging in. Now it is more and more like the way that Living Social has presented its daily deals. Our take is that the Stern Agee upgrade is making this Groupon story one where consumers can directly go search for their deal. This is the evolution of the daily deal model into the "ongoing deal" category.

While what Stern Agee lists this as a turn right direction, we still have concerns that there are just no barriers to entry at all. Valuation is a concern as well as shares have now more than doubled off their 52-week low.

After a gain of 5.6% to $5.59 so far on Wednesday, the 52-week range is $2.60 to $20.63. As a reminder, Groupon's IPO price was $20.00 per share.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Analyst Calls, Consumer Goods, Consumer Product, Internet, Retail Tagged: GOOG, GRPN