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Monster (MWW) Tries to Sell Itself

By: , dated March 26th, 2012

Long before LinkedIn (LNKD: Charts, News) became the default job search site on the Internet, Monster Worldwide’s (MWW: Charts, News) Monster.com was the first stop for job seekers. Unfortunately, Monster’s popularity waned as the Internet matured, and after the dot-com bubble popped, shares slid from $91 per share to approximately $10 today. Just as Yahoo (YHOO: Charts, News) fell to Google (GOOG: Charts, News), Monster was taken out by LinkedIn, which took Monster’s business model one step further by adding Facebook’s social networking structure. Meanwhile, Monster failed to upgrade its outdated job boards to social networking standards, and was largely forgotten by employers and job seekers. However, the company made headlines last week when CEO Sal Iannuzzi announced that he was willing to sell his company to private equity firms, tech companies or large investors. “We’re agnostic as to what type of acquirer it is,” stated Iannuzzi. “The real issue is we know we have value, and we know we can go around and look for opportunities to get that.”

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Shares of Monster weathered a truly terrible 2011, when shares plunged 66%. The drop was exacerbated by LinkedIn’s explosive May IPO, which instantly made it the top name in Internet job searches. Since Iannuzzi announced that Monster was exploring “strategic alternatives” on March 1, shares have recovered 50%. Shares had hit an all-time low of $6.34 per share at the end of February. Besides waiting for a potential suitor, Monster shareholders have little to cheer for. Two weeks ago, UBS downgraded the company, citing market share losses in North America and few chances of a reversal in 2012. Six weeks ago, the company announced that it would lay off 7% of its workforce, or approximately 400 employees, to cut costs. Monster has made poor attempts at striking back at LinkedIn’s assault. At a Baird event, Iannuzzi made a weak claim that the two companies are in “two different sectors” of the market, and are not actually competitors. Many analysts and investors scoffed at Iannuzzi’s statement, and highlighted it as another sign that the company was losing its competitive edge. While LinkedIn is classified as a social networking site and Monster as a job search engine, Monster is failing to keep up with its lesser peers, trailing in third behind first place Indeed.com and second place Careerbuilder.com.

Although LinkedIn’s user base is smaller, it is actually growing at a time when Monster’s user base is shrinking – a sobering fact that has kept most investors far away from Monster stock. Analysts on average believe that Monster’s revenue and earnings will fall by 6% and 30% respectively in the coming year, while LinkedIn’s revenue and earnings will grow respectively by 67% and 74%. Monster is also currently dwarfed by LinkedIn in market cap – Monster is currently worth $1.25 billion while LinkedIn is worth $10.18 billion. Lastly, the company has failed to effectively attract smartphone and tablet users with a decent mobile application. Currently 80% of Monster’s iPad users rate its much maligned mobile application 1 out of 5 stars.

Looking forward into the first quarter of 2012, Monster expects a revenue decline between 3% to 7% from the prior year quarter’s $253 million. Meanwhile earnings are expected to come in between break-even and 4 cents per share. This sorely disappointed analysts who had expected the company to post revenue of $262 million and earnings of 9 cents per share. Shares currently trade with a 5-year PEG ratio of 2.87, signaling negative to sluggish growth ahead. While an acquisition is possible, investors shouldn’t pick up shares in hope of a massive buyout. Without a real offer, shares are likely to slide back to all-time lows.

Other News About MWW
Monster Worldwide at 6-Month High After Upgrade
Monster gets upgraded on acquisition chatter.
Monster CEO Says He’s Open to Selling All or Part of Company
Monster tries to sell itself, but are there any suitors out there?
Other Stocks in the News
LinkedIn’s growth makes it an attractive buy
LinkedIn shares are trading in zero gravity – should investors hop on despite lopsided fundamentals?
Walt Disney Co: Let The Future Earnings Begin
Is Disney about to break out this year?

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Leo Sun Leo Sun is a freelance finance writer and position trader. He focuses on a combination of value and momentum investing, with a strong interest in the trading philosophies of Warren Buffett and Peter Lynch. Leo also has experience writing articles to help small business owners acquire loans and manage their finances. He regularly contributes to the Stock of the Day analysis.

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