In late 2013, Mayer said turning around the core business would take around three years, something investors may have little patience for despite 2013 being a stellar year for the stock.
In the last quarter of 2013, Yahoo! noted display revenue fell 6% from last year to $491 million. The number of ads rose 3% year over year but prices continued to decline, falling 7% from the fourth quarter of 2012. Search continued to be the better operating segment, as revenue excluding traffic acquisition costs (TAC) rose 8% to $461 million. Paid clicks, excluding Korea, rose 17% year over year, but the price-per-click fell 3% from the fourth quarter of 2012. That doesn't exactly smack of optimism right around the quarter.
JMP Securities analyst Ronald Josey is looking for some sort of stabilization in display revenue, as Mayer's new advertising initiatives, including Stream ads, Tumblr Sponsored Posts and the launch of the Gemini ad marketplace take shape.
"Given improving user engagement and pricing growth across Yahoo!'s more traditional desktop display business," Josey wrote in a note, "we will be listening for progress from newer ad formats around mobile, video, and social. We will be focused on adoption and scale of Yahoo!'s native Stream ad units as our checks suggest Stream ad pricing is improving as the auction marketplace becomes more robust. Additionally, the launch of Gemini in mid-1Q as a unified marketplace for mobile search and Native / Stream ads could be helping to drive pricing growth."
Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Youssef Squali, who rates Yahoo! "buy" with a $40 price target, isn't expecting much this quarter as the focus continues to remain on Yahoo!'s Asian assets.
"We expect Yahoo! to report another muted quarter on Tuesday 4/15, after the close, in-line with expectations," Squali wrote in a note. "While 2013 represented a year of right-sizing, investment and acquisition, we think 2014 should be the year where monetization efforts drive a resumption in top-line growth, starting with 1Q:14. In the meantime, prospects for the highly anticipated Alibaba IPO this year, continued cost containment efforts, a recent stock pullback, and a buyback make for an attractive valuation, in our view."
This is the year where the rose bloom is off for Yahoo! and Mayer, and turnaround time goes in to full effect. With the pending Alibaba initial public offering coming within the next few months, much will be made about how Yahoo! spends the cash it receives from the IPO (Yahoo! is required to sell half of its 24% stake in the IPO), and whether the company can actually start to turn around in 2014.
When we last heard from Mayer, she said she was confident Yahoo!'s mobile efforts would be able to monetize this year. "We remain confident that there is a big opportunity for Yahoo and we will continue to focus and invest in mobile monetization in 2014," Mayer said on the earnings call. With the company focusing so much on mobile products, like the aforementioned Finance, Sports, Weather and various other content offerings, the time is now for Mayer and Yahoo! to demonstrate revenue growth.Otherwise, Mayer, who has never been shy of promoting the company or herself, may need to actually find something worth talking about before appearing in Vanity Fair again.
-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York
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