Soaring revenue at Angie’s List impresses analysts

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Indianapolis-based Angie's List beat analysts’ revenue expectations in its first quarter as a public company, seeing results from a pricey marketing campaign that drove up expenses.

Revenue of $27.4 million in the fourth quarter exceeded RBC Capital Markets' projections by $2 million, or 8.5 percent, according to a report the investment firm issued Thursday. “Overall, Angie’s List delivered a solid fourth quarter out of the IPO gate,” said RBC analyst Ross Sandler.

“Angie’s List first [quarterly] results as a public company exceeded our expectations,” Stifel Nicolaus analyst Jordan Rohan wrote in another Thursday report.

Angie’s List, which provides reviews of service providers such as plumbers and electricians, hasn’t turned an annual profit since it was founded 17 years ago. On Wednesday, it reported a fourth-quarter loss of $5.9 million and a $49 million loss for the full year.

However, sales jumped 70 percent for the quarter and by 53 percent—to $90 million—for the full year.  

Analysts had not expected a profit for the fourth quarter, noting Angie’s List is on an aggressive growth plan following its IPO. Of the 186 markets it now serves, 141 of those came on board during the last four years, Stifel Nicolaus' Rohan noted.

CEO Bill Oesterle told analysts on a conference call Wednesday that the company's top five markets—which represent 25 percent of its 1 million-plus members—are New York; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Chicago and Boston.

Gaining share has been an expensive process. The company last year increased its sales force 20 percent and spent a record $56 million on marketing, up a whopping 86 percent from 2010. Much of that went to a blitz of national television ads.

The payoff includes a 78-percent jump in the company’s membership base and higher advertising revenues.

Angie’s List "continues to sustain operating losses in the early development and market penetration stage, which are largely expected to continue,” wrote RBC’s Sandler.

During the Wednesday conference call, Chief Financial Officer Robert Millard said first-quarter revenue is likely to be $29 million to $30 million.

Although revenue is on the rise, some analysts expect the ongoing marketing expenses to increase losses in the near term, the Stifel Nicolaus report noted.

Angie’s List went public in mid-November after raising $114 million in an initial public offering. The company sold 8.8 million shares for $13 apiece, and shares quickly surged to as high as $18.75 in its trading debut.

Shares closed at $14.46 on Wednesday, before the earnings release. By 11:30 a.m. Thursday, they were trading at $16.65—up 15 percent for the day.

Other firms also have big ambitions in the business review sector, including San Francisco-based Yelp. The provider of consumer-generated reviews online plans an initial public offering to sell just over 7 million shares, priced between $12 and $14 a share.

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