Groupon Shares Fall on Surprise Loss (Update 1)

Updated from 4:54 p.m. ET to include executive comments.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Groupon ( GRPN) shares plummeted nearly 15% in after-hours trading on Wednesday after the online daily deals company missed Wall Street's earnings expectations for its fourth-quarter results.

The company, which issued its first quarterly report as a public company since completing its IPO in early November, posted an adjusted loss of $9.8 million, or 2 cents a share. Revenue nearly tripled to $506.5 million.

Analysts were looking for adjusted profit of 3 cents per share and revenue of $475 million in the quarter. Groupon said its adjusted results reflect a negative impact of 7 cents a share from high taxes related to its international operations.

Groupon said its worldwide active customer base grew to over 33 million, up 20% over last quarter. The company defines active customers as those who have purchased a Groupon in the last 12 months.

More than 26 million people have downloaded the Groupon app on their smartphone.

For the current fiscal first quarter of 2012, Groupon forecast revenue of between $510 million and $550 million, above analyst expectations of $500 million.

Groupon, which has been criticized for overspending on marketing to acquire new customers, trimmed its spend 22%.

Groupon shares have struggled since the company's November IPO, which was marred by shake-ups among Groupon's management team, scrutiny over its accounting metrics and concerns about its long-term ability to turn a profit.

Groupon, which offers customers discounts on local businesses such as nail salons and restaurants, is the market leader in the space. There's some worry, however, that the daily deals sector isn't sustainable amid customer fatigue and merchant concerns.

About half of businesses who have issued a deal in the past say they don't plan to do so again, according to a recent study by Susquehanna Financial Group and daily-deal aggregator Yipit.

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason isn't concerned.

"We're encouraged by developments in the market place and we continue to operate against our own strategic roadmap rather than be influenced by the behavior of others," Mason said during a conference call with analysts.

The stock was last quoted at $20.99, down 14.6%, on volume of more than 3.1 million, according to Nasdaq.com. The after-hours low is $20.67.

-- Written by Olivia Oran in New York.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/Ozoran.

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