Going into 2013, there was not much optimism for Groupon (GRPN) … but looking back we can see that the company was on the verge of a nice comeback. In fact, for the year, GRPN stock has returned over 110%.
The mastermind of Groupon was Andrew Mason, who launched the business back in 2008. His idea was to use daily email blasts to sell vouchers providing deep discounts on things like spa treatments. At first, the business soared and Mason had little trouble raising large amounts of capital. Groupon quickly became a tech darling.
But unfortunately, Groupon (and GRPN stock) suffered as the competition grew more intense and consumers got fatigued with the constant emails. So Groupon made a wrenching transition away from daily deals to becoming a more traditional e-commerce operator — but still with a focus on deep discounts.
In other words, the ride in 2013 has certainly been a wild one for GRPN stock investors.
Some of the biggest moves and most important announcements from the last year are marked on the Groupon stock chart below. Take a look at what GRPN stock news made a splash in 2013.
1. Feb. 28: When fourth-quarter Groupon earnings came out, it was an absolute mess for GRPN stock. In a post for IPOPlaybook, I called it “Another Regularly Scheduled Disaster.” Groupon earnings not only missed the Street expectations, but guidance also fell short. Groupon said Q1 would see sales between $560 million and $610 million in revenues, while GRPN stock analysts were expecting $650 million. Still, Andrew Mason was somehow upbeat on the conference call.
Aftermath: The GRPN stock price said it all, though: More than a 24% drop for the day.
2. Mar. 1: Andrew Mason — who was 32 at the time — got booted in early March. In his place came co-founder Eric Lefkofsky. It was a sad moment for IPOPlaybook as well, since Mason’s antics were always fun to write about. Who could forget about the time the Groupon CEO was drinking alcohol and burping at a company meeting … and making a speech about how GRPN should be more professional? Or when he had the cat on his head for a photo shoot in The Wall Street Journal? Heck, even on his last day at the helm of Groupon (and as GRPN stock was in the gutter), Andrew Mason maintained his quirkiness. In his farewell memo, he wrote: “After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding — I was fired today.”
Aftermath: It must have been somewhat painful for Andrew Mason as GRPN stock surged almost 13% on his abrupt departure. But at least he still owned a nice chunk of Groupon stock … and would go on to create his own motivational business album.
3. Jul 30: Groupon expanded its platform into the restaurant-booking market — called Groupon Reserve — which was dominated by OpenTable (OPEN). While the strategy was to provide deep discounts, the focus was actually on the high-end establishments like NYC’s Le Cirque, Chaya Brasserie in Los Angeles and Miami’s db Bistro Moderne. Another sign that GRPN was moving away from the daily-deal model, Groupon Reserve would not have any vouchers. Instead, the discounts would be taken straight off the menu.
Aftermarket: GRPN stock investors weren’t too impressed, as the stock fell over 2%.
4. Sep 5: As the turnaround started to take shape, Wall Street analysts began to upgrade their ratings on GRPN stock. One of the most notable came from Morgan Stanley’s (MS) Scott Devitt. He changed his recommendation from “equal weight” to “overweight” and put out a price target of $14 for Groupon stock. The main reason: Devitt noted that GRPN was making great strides in essentially becoming a search engine for offers and promotions. Oh, and he also like the tremendous success with mobile transactions.
Aftermath: On the news, GRPN stock rose over 4%.
5. Nov. 8: When Groupon announced its third-quarter earnings, the initial response was a 10% drop. But when GRPN stock investors started to dig into the numbers, they realized things weren’t so bad after all. On an adjusted basis, Groupon earned 2 cents per share and revenues climbed by 5% to $595 million. A key driver was a 24% jump in revenue for North America. There was also strength in billings, which rose by 10% to $1.34 billion. And GRPN stock investors were encouraged by a $260 million acquisition of Ticket Monster, a top commerce operator in South Korea. The business could be a launchpad into other valuable markets in Asia.
Aftermath: By the end of trading day, GRPN stock was up almost 9%.
6. Nov 20: Groupon announced “freebies,” a digital coupon offering — probably in response to the success of RetailMeNot (SALE), which pulled off a strong IPO. To get traction, GRPN put together a broad program, which included over 25,000 coupons from 5,500 brands. Just some of the retail partners involved Target (TG), Best Buy (BBY) and Macy’s (M). And the market potential is massive. According to an analyst from Sterne Agee, it comes roughly to $28 billion on a global basis.
Aftermath: While there were positive comments from some analysts on the freebies program, GRPN stock still plunged 6%. Consider that the news came on a day when there was general weakness with social stocks like Pandora (P) and LinkedIn (LNKD).
7. Dec. 3: The kick-off of the holiday shopping season was huge for GRPN. During the four-day weekend period, billings in North America surged by 30% on a year-over-year basis. More than half the transactions came from mobile devices. Groupon also got lots of traction from categories not typically associated with the company. For example, it sold over 47,000 Royal Loom Bands and 17,000 Flirty Aprons.
Aftermath: Wall Street liked the news and pushed GRPN stock up nearly 4%.
8. Dec. 10: From its start, Groupon has always had a jovial approach. Keep in mind that GRPN has an editorial department that creates fun copy for its offers. And despite the turmoil, Groupon has not lost its sense of humor. Just look at its response to Amazon’s (AMZN) brilliant PR move with its drone delivery vehicles. GRPN said its idea is to use catapults!
Aftermath: Sure, this was really not fundamental news. But hey, GRPN stock was still up 1%!
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.