Angie’s List (ANGI) has stumbled big-time recently. In fact, ANGI stock is down another 5% today, bringing its losses to nearly 40% since late September.
The question, though, is whether or not third-quarter Angie’s List earnings — slated to be released Wednesday after the market closes — can get ANGI stock moving in the right direction again.
Unfortunately, there are some big red flags waving for ANGI stock, and even strong Angie’s List earnings may not be enough to set things straight.
Big Headwinds for ANGI
Angie’s List, which operates a marketplace for contractors and other service providers, has remained in the growth mode. In the second quarter, ANGI announced impressive revenue of $59.2 million — a sizzling 62% improvement on a year-over-year basis.
And Wall Street does expect the momentum to continue for ANGI. For the third quarter, revenue is expected to increase 57% year-over-year to over $66 million … although a loss of 20 cents per share is also on tap.
So why has Angie’s List stock come under pressure? Well, the trigger was a recent ominous article about ANGI stock in The Wall Street Journal.
In it, ANGI CEO William Oesterle said he was slashing membership subscription price prices by about 75% in cities like New York, Washington, Chicago and more. As should be no surprise, investors dumped Angie’s List stock immediately, with shares of ANGI plunging 14% in one day.
Afterwards, Oesterle began damage control and said the pricing move was just a test — which is no longer in effect — and not a sign of a major change in the business. But Angie’s List stock investors were still skeptical.
And it’s true that the ANGI subscription model does look dicey. It’s questionable how much value users get — especially since ANGI highlights service providers based on ad payments — when it is possible to get free reviews from sites like Yelp, RedBeacon, Google (GOOG) or HomeAdvisor.
Is it any wonder that Angie’s List is thinking about reducing prices substantially — or that investors have been worried?
Of course, the pricing does not appear to be so much of a problem right now, as seen by optimistic expectations for sales numbers in the upcoming ANGI earnings report. And as InvestorPlace editor Jeff Reeves recently noted, some analysts believe in the stock. He writes:
“Going into earnings, there is at least one Wall Street expert who is bullish. MKM Partners thinks the market is pricing in an earnings miss, but that it’s more likely ANGI will meet expectations on a ‘clean quarter’ that doesn’t reflect any of the current pricing tests. MKM expects Angie’s List shares to rebound to the low $20s and the firm has maintained its $34 price target and ‘buy’ rating on the ANGI shares.”
Still, Reeves notes that one good-enough quarter is hardly a long-term thesis for the stock.
On top of that, quarterly numbers could be strong … but that will be at least partly because of the company’s aggressive push on marketing — especially television commercials. Unfortunately, those are not cheap and are a big reason that ANGI has remained unprofitable. Yelp, for comparison, has no commercials.
There are some other tell-tale signs of trouble. For example, Angie’s List suffered the recent departure of two key senior executives: Chief Technology Officer Manu Thapar and Chief Financial Officer Robert Millard.
Then there is the short interest for ANGI. Over half of the overall float is in short positions … hardly a show of confidence. Plus, that percentage is more than double what it was back in mid-April.
The bottom line: Sure, the recent sell-off means ANGI stock is trading at just 4.5X sales — far more attractive than what it was before. But this may still be too expensive — especially if the upcoming Angie’s List earnings report shows the slightest sign that the growth rate is cooling off.
If that happens, there could easily be more pressure on Angie’s List stock.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.