Groupon has fallen hard since it was the “fastest-growing company in the world” with a valuation of $25 billion, thanks to revelations of accounting discrepancies, revenue numbers, payouts to early investors and a class action lawsuit by employees. Groupon already looks overvalued at its current $10 billion valuation, says Henry Blodget, who estimates a more appropriate valuation would be in the $7.5 billion range in a post titled, “I Wouldn’t Touch Groupon’s Stock At The IPO Price With A 50-Foot Pole.”
Bummerzone for Andrew Mason. But there may be some Groupon backlash backlash. “But just for the sake of symmetry, here’s a simple bull case for Groupon, and for how it could get its really high revenue growth back,” writes the highly-regarded Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon this morning.
Business Insider announced earlier this week that it had raised a fresh $7 million in venture funding from the likes of IVP and RRE. The site earned investor’s capital by showing impressive growth in terms of both unique visitors and pageviews, even booking a small profit. But a pair of posts from late last night questioned the methods by which the site achieves this enviable traffic.
IP Uh Oh
Henry Blodget knows a thing or two about securities violations. During the dot-com boom he rose to the the position of number one Internet analyst at Merrill Lynch. Bu after the bubble burst, he was indicted by Elliot Spitzer for securities fraud, when emails emerged that showed him bad mouthing stocks in private that he was pumping up in public. Mr. Blodget agreed to pay $4 million in total and was banned from the securities business for life.
Today Mr. Blodget, in his reincarnation as a tech blogger at Business Insider, pointed out what he saw as a suspicious series of events. Groupon, which has filed for an IPO, has been taking a lot of heat from both the press and the SEC over its unique accounting methods. Because of the SEC’s “quiet period”, which prohibits companies who have filed for IPO from promoting themselves, Groupon cannot defend itself publicly.
But Blodget argues that, “The clever method Groupon is using to try to get around the SEC’s quiet period rule is writing a detailed public communication in the form of a CEO “letter to employees” that Groupon has then distributed publicly with the help of a trusted media outlet.”