Why Yelp Is Surging: What Wall Street Thinks

Updated from 8:16 a.m. to include comments from JMP Securities analyst.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Yelp (YELP), the San Francisco-based online review company continues to beat Wall Street's expectations, as the company posted first-quarter results that topped expectations, sending shares surging.

For the first quarter, Yelp lost 4 cents a share on $76.4 million in revenue, as cumulative reviews grew 46% year over year to approximately 57 million. The company continues to work its way towards profitability, something that's become increasingly important on Wall Street recently for high growth technology stocks. In the year ago period, Yelp lost 8 cents a share.

Shares were surging in early Thursday trading, gaining 6.3% to $62.00.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had forecast a net loss of 6 cents a share and revenue of $75.06 million.

The company, which competes with privately held YP.com (which it announced a deal with during the quarter) and to a lesser extent OpenTable (OPEN), noted average monthly unique visitors grew approximately 30% year over year to 132 million, according to Google Analytics. Average monthly mobile unique visitors grew 52% year over year to approximately 61 million.

During the quarter, Yelp also announced a deal with Yahoo! (YHOO), bringing Yelp's reviews, business information and star ratings to Yahoo! Search.

Yelp also noted that active local businesses continue to take to the platform, as there are now approximately 74,000 local business accounts on the service, up 65% year over year.

For the second quarter, Yelp said it expects sales between $85 million and $86 million, slightly ahead of what Wall Street was thinking, at $85.44 million in sales. The company also bumped up its full year revenue guidance, as it now expects sales between $363 million and $367 million, representing 57% growth. It had previously expected sales to be between $353 million and $358 million.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected full-year sales of $358.91 million.  

Following the earnings report and conference call, several analysts were raising their price targets, with a few of them upgrading the stock. Here's what a few of them had to say:

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Youssef Squali (Buy, $80 PT)

"Yelp reported another solid quarter, with impressive growth across all key metrics and for older U.S. cohorts. Revenue was ~2% ahead of consensus, while EBITDA was ~$1M shy on investment/int'l expansion. That said, management raised full year guidance as it expects top line momentum to carry through the remainder of the year. We're maintaining a BUY rating and adjusting our PT to $80 (from $84) on higher share count from the Oct. 31 stock offering."

Jefferies analyst Brian Pitz (Buy, $100 PT)

"Yelp reported another strong quarter as the company continues to disrupt the traditional offline directory business. We believe the overall opportunity is very large and that there is meaningful operating leverage left in the model, even as Yelp's moat continues to grow. We are Reiterate our Buy following recent weakness in the stock."

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster (Overweight, $80 PT)

"We are upgrading shares of YELP to Overweight. Over the past few quarters, our primary issue with YELP has been valuation. Given the ~40% pullback in shares over the past month, we believe now is the time to own Yelp. Beyond just the correction in valuation, we note the company continues to report solid business metrics with a 1% Q1 revenue beat and a 2% CY14 revenue guide-up vs. the Street. We also note our recent proprietary survey on Yelp vs. Google reviews gave us more comfort with Yelp's competitive position. These factors lead us to upgrade to OW with an $80 price target."

Oppenheimer analyst Jason Helfstein (Outperform, $80 PT)

"Following better 1Q14 revenue and increased FY revenue/EBITDA guidance, we are modestly raising estimates and increasing our target from $78 to $80. First-quarter revenue increased 66% y/y, 3%/2% above Opco/Street estimates. EBITDA was in line on slightly higher R&D. UVs +29% y/y with active local accounts +64%. Second-quarter revenue guidance was below our expectations, but in line with Street; 2Q EBITDA guidance was below our and Street estimates on increased sales headcount and international expansion. However, FY EBITDA and revenue guidance increased by 4% and 3%, respectively. As such, we are increasing '14E revenue 3% while leaving EBITDA largely unchanged. Target
assumes 15x 2018E EBITDA, consistent with high-growth Internet peers. Maintain Outperform rating."

JMP Securities analyst Ronald Josey (Market Outperform, $113 PT)

"We reiterate our Market Outperform rating and $113 price target on Yelp shares following a beat and raise quarter demonstrating strong momentum across almost every key metric. Revenue of $76.4 million came in 1.8% above consensus while EBITDA of $8.5 million (11.1% margin, +420 bps Y/ Y) came in at the midpoint of guidance given higher than expected Sales & Marketing costs. Brand & Other revenue led the upside in the quarter, while Local revenue grew 67% as Yelp ended the quarter with 73,600 Active Business Accounts. Overall, we believe Yelp delivered one of the cleanest quarters thus far across the broader Internet sector, reaffirming Yelp's overall opportunity and we note that shares rose 5.7% in aftermarket trading to $61.65 as a result. Since we upgraded the company on March 24, shares are down 30% vs. the S&P +0.9%, and we would recommend taking advantage of this sell-off."

Also See: Marissa Mayer Yelped and Got What She Wanted

Also See: How Yahoo! Screen Is Getting Another Big Boost

--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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