Groupon ($GRPN) is on the Rise. Is it Worth Buying?

It may or may not have been a long time since you last used a Groupon. For many, the couponing giant has all but disappeared, but for others it appears more vital than ever. After a sudden 8% jump at the beginning of August, a 42% rise since June, and a solid Q2, investors are starting to take notice of Groupon. However, deciding whether or not it’s a buy is a difficult puzzle to solve.

Groupon’s buy rating reiterated at B. Riley. $5.50 PT. http://www.marketbeat.com/r/869551 $GRPN

— MarketBeat.com (@AnalystRatingsNetwork) Aug. 8 at 11:27 AM

Why Groupon’s Price Went Up

$GRPN posted lower revenue at Q2 earnings than at any other point in the stock’s 6 year history ($662.62 million down from $934.89 million just two quarters prior). While this might spook the casual observer, smart money understood that even as net revenue dropped, revenue quality was on the rise.

Groupon is leaning less upon international expansion and Groupon Goods than in years past, and domestic efforts are purring along (OrderUp is a Groupon company, for example). As such, its margins have risen impressively, and the company even added $0.02 EPS when analysts thought, if anything, EPS would be down. This can be seen as a consolidation, a greater focus on what works.

Groupon has recently offered notable deals for retail giants like Costco. They also added 300,000 new North Americans to its already sizable 31.9 million active user base. All of this is translating to more and better deals, used by more people.

Is There a Downside?

There is another way to tell this story. While it is laudable that Groupon is becoming more financially sound, a retreat from international markets and physical product might just as easily be abandoned expansion potential in favor of consolidation within a shrinking terrain. It’s great that Groupon is doubling down on what it does best, but what does this mean for their future?

Why is the terrain shrinking? As with so many questions in the stock market, the answer is Amazon. Groupon does best when it drives customers to brick and mortar. The Costco partnership is great, especially because of Costco’s awesome retention rates. But online, Amazon is still way ahead of Groupon by nearly all metrics.

Groupon works as an intermediary between consumers and goods/services they might possibly want to buy. It takes work to dig through Groupon’s available deals, unless you happen to see a featured example that you really want (a discounted Costco membership for example). Also, from personal experience, Groupon support has been known to suck.

Meanwhile, Amazon Prime offers endless things at decent prices, with fast free shipping for Prime customers. Following the Whole Foods acquisition and Amazon’s other grocery plays, it’s only a matter of time before another significant bite it taken out of American retail. As with all things Amazon, it’s likely to happen before you expect.

But we’re not there quite yet.

So Should I Buy or Not?

Groupon is becoming lean and mean, and I wouldn’t be surprised at continued growth in the short term. However, I would certainly not be a buyer for the long haul, or even the not-so-long haul. I’m not optimistic for the future of third party couponing, but if you already own $GRPN, feel free to hang on to it, or briefly sell to lock in those profits before a buyback on the next dip.

Groupon may not be a paradigm shifter, but they’re gritty and a better company than ever before. This may offer value to investors with certain interests and priorities.

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