DoubleClick Disappoints Again

Updated from July 22

DoubleClick ( DCLK)plunged 25% Friday after disappointing Wall Street for the second straight quarter with a drop in earnings and lower financial guidance.

For its second quarter ended June 30, the New York-based marketing firm posted a profit of $3.9 million, or 3 cents a share. That's down from the year-ago $5.8 million, or 4 cents a share. Revenue rose to $69.2 million from $63.6 million a year earlier.

The numbers fell shy of the analyst consensus estimate taken by Thomson First Call. Wall Street expected a 4-cent second-quarter profit on sales of $71.8 million.

DoubleClick said latest-quarter revenue came in below its expectations, due to year-over-year declines in revenue from its Abacus and Ad Management divisions. The company said the declines were "mainly a result of lower-than-anticipated mailings by customers in the U.S. retail business-to-consumer (B-to-C) Abacus Alliance and continued softness in the Publisher portion of DoubleClick's Ad Management business."

DoubleClick also set third-quarter guidance below expectations, saying it expects to make 2 cents to 5 cents a share on revenue of around $79 million. Wall Street had forecast an 8-cent profit on sales of $85 million.

The company forecast a similar shortfall for the year, saying it would make around 15 cents a share on revenue of around $298 million. Analysts had projected a 25-cent profit on $309 million in sales.

"While several of our newer businesses continued to show growth, we are not satisfied with our overall results," said CEO Kevin Ryan. "We are focused on enhancing the performance of our core businesses, even as we continue to invest in our newer products. These increased investments may dampen our results in the short term, but we believe that they are necessary to improve long-term growth."

The news comes as Wall Street struggles with repeated disappointments from the once-hot ad company. Part of the bullish case on DoubleClick -- an offline and online marketing services company -- is that pricing will stabilize in its online ad delivery business, which accounts for nearly half its revenue. The stock's proponents also argue that the company is developing and acquiring a suite of marketing services that will make it indispensible to major advertisers.

But the company's inability to keep pace with industry growth, as well as the bigger-than-expected negative impact of a recent acquisition, are calling DoubleClick's ability to execute on its plan into question. The setbacks are giving investors an excuse to look instead toward other online advertising plays, such as ValueClick ( VCLK) and aQuantive ( AQNT).

The deceleration in DoubleClick's revenue growth rate and the continued compression of the company's margins in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization "are troubling," American Technology Research's Mark Mahaney wrote Friday morning. Mahaney, who has a hold rating on the stock, reduced his estimates for the company and cut his price target from $8.20 to $6.

Credit Suisse First Boston's Heath Terry lowered his target price on the stock from $12 to $9, but reaffirmed an outperform rating for DoubleClick. "Despite a strong online advertising environment, the company continues to produce disappointing results and guidance," Terry wrote Friday morning. "While the company's inability to take advantage of such a strong operating environment is difficult to understand, we believe that expectations are low enough and are unwilling to throw in the towel given the valuation (less than 2 times cash)." CSFB has done recent investment banking for DoubleClick.

DoubleClick's latest setback comes just three months after it lost a quarter of its value in a single day following a sharp earnings shortfall. With the stock trading at $5.22 Friday, down $1.76, it's now down 42% from where it was following that earlier one-day drop.

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