In late December, I thought TripAdvisor (TRIP) - Get TripAdvisor, Inc. Report stock should be avoided until the travel site could figure out how to go mobile. This week, the company missed Wall Street estimates again.
After Wednesday's close, TripAdvisor reported fourth-quarter 2016 Non-GAAP earnings of $0.16 per share, $0.15 below the consensus estimate. Revenue rose 2.3%, year to year, to $316 million versus the estimate of $327.2 million.
Hotel revenue fell 3% to $252 million, while non-hotel revenue increased 31% to $64 million. Hotel revenue was 80% of total company revenue.
TripAdvisor reached 560,000 instantly bookable hotels on its platform. In addition, the company added Expedia (EXPE) - Get Expedia Group, Inc. Report and Hilton (HLT) - Get Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc (HLT) Report as hotel partners.
Revenue per hotel shopper (RPS) was down 7% to $0.43, but that was an improvement from the first quarter of 2016, when RPS was down 21%. Management is encouraged by the trend and believes it indicates the company is on the right track with its instant booking technology and site improvements.
Non-GAAP net income fell 65% to $23 million. Cash flow from operating activities and free cash flow were down 41% and 52%, respectively.
Cost of sales continues to soar. During the quarter, sales and marketing expenses increased 19% to $172 million.
For the full year, total revenue fell 1% to $1.48 billion. Hotel revenue was down 6% to $1.19 billion and non-hotel revenue was up 27% to $290 million. Cash flow from operating activities and free cash flow declined 23% and 19%, respectively.
Adjusted EBITDA was $352 million for 2016, a decrease of 24%. Non-GAAP net income was $206 million, or $1.40 per share.
On the call afterwards, management said it was "turning a corner" and expects people costs to grow slower than revenue growth this year and direct marketing costs to grow in excess of revenue growth, which should keep downward pressure on profits all year.
Management is targeting double-digit consolidated revenue growth in 2017, driven by double-digit click-based and transaction revenue growth. Adjusted EBITDA could be flat to down on a year-over-year basis.
I believe shares of TripAdvisor will be under pressure until the company can show some serious revenue growth. The hotel booking business is extremely competitive and users just don't view TripAdvisor as a hotel booking site.
I am encouraged by the company's progress in mobile, but higher expenses and lower margins won't make the stock go higher.
Take a trip far away from these shares.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.