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Angie's List Gets Little Love From Analysts

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

By Tom Taulli , InvestorPlace Writer

NEW YORK ( InvestorPlace) --When it comes to IPOs, there are several arcane rules. One is the "quiet period," which requires that a company's insiders and underwriters not make any forward-looking comments about its IPO. But once it expires at the end of 40 days from its offering, you'll typically see plenty of analyst recommendations.

While they typically glow, there are some exceptions. Just look at Groupon (GRPN - Get Report). In mid-December, when Groupon's quiet period expired , the company's analysts issued recommendations that ranged from neutral to sector perform to hold.
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  • This should have been a red flag for investors. Let's face it: Wall Street analysts don't like to cause too much rancor with big companies because it could mean losing future investment banking fees, such as for secondaries and acquisitions. In the case of Groupon, its stock fell 13% after the recommendations.

    This week, we got another case: Angie's List (ANGI). On Tuesday, the quiet period expired and the analyst recommendations were lukewarm. For example, Bank of America gave Angie's List a neutral rating and RBC Capital placed a sector perform rating on the company. ANGI received only two buy ratings.
  • Also see: 5 hot IPO possibilities for 2012
  • Price targets were in a range of $17 to $19; ANGI started Tuesday at $16.40 but finished the day trading at just more than $15.

    Angie's List is a well-known destination for people to find contractors, and it boasts more than 1 million members. Unlike other providers, Angie's List actually has been able to get its customers to pay ongoing fees. And the company's growth rate has been strong, with revenue up 46% to $62.6 million for the first nine months of 2011.
  • Also see: Facebook faces obstacles to blue-chip status
  • But there's a hitch: To achieve this growth, Angie's List has been spending aggressively on marketing (there's a good chance you've seen the company's ubiquitous commercials). Last year's marketing expenditures came to $48 million, up from $30.2 million in the same period a year ago.

    That's because Angie's List must compete against free offerings, including ServiceMagic, Yelp, Insider Pages and Kudzu. It also has pressure from Internet giants like Google (GOOG), Groupon, Microsoft (MSFT) and Yahoo! (YHOO).
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