LinkedIn Corp’s revenue forecast shocked Wall Street as it deeply failed to live up to expectations when shares of the social network for professionals plunged about 35 percent on Friday, erasing nearly $9 billion of market value.
The company recorded its sharpest decline since the company’s high-profile public listing in 2011 with the stock sinking to a three-year low of $124.51 in early trading.
At least seven brokerages downgraded the stock from “buy” to “hold” or their equivalents, no longer accepting the company’s lofty valuation.
“With a lower growth profile, we believe that LinkedIn should not enjoy the premium multiple it has grown accustomed to,” Mizuho Securities USA Inc analysts wrote in a note.
Mizuho downgraded the stock to “neutral” and reduced its target price to $150 from $258.
Also, Raymond James, Cowen and Co, BMO Capital Markets, J.P.Morgan Securities and RBC Capital Markets downgraded the stock.
RBC cutting its target by almost half to $156 incited at least 22 other brokerages to cut their price targets on the stock.
LinkedIn forecast full-year revenue of $3.60-$3.65 billion, staying from the average analyst estimate of $3.91 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
“This would imply that LinkedIn will grow around 15 percent in 2017 and 10 percent in 2018,” the Mizuho analysts said.
Accentuating the slowdown in growth, LinkedIn said online ad revenue growth slowed to 20 percent in the fourth quarter from 56 percent a year earlier.
RBC analysts said they “were wrong” thinking that LinkedIn was on the tip of “fundamentally positive” change, they said in a client note.
As of Thursday, LinkedIn shares were trading at 50 times forward 12-month earnings versus Twitter Inc’s 29.5 times, Facebook Inc’s 33.8 and Alphabet Inc’s 20.9, adding up to it being one of the most expensive stocks in the tech sector.
Evercore analysts now believe that Facebook, Alphabet and Amazon.com Inc are better choices for investors than LinkedIn.
LinkedIn has been laying out huge amounts of money on expansion by buying companies, hiring sales personnel and growing outside the United States. However, it is now facing pressure in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific because of macro-economic issues.
“Given those macro concerns and LinkedIn’s recent execution issues, we expect investors will demand financial outperformance before there is meaningful recovery in LNKD’s multiple,” Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a client note.
During the last three months, LinkedIn shares have lost nearly a quarter of their value.
In view of the current situation, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner explained in prepared remarks the company’s new approach. “Our strategy in 2016 will increasingly focus on a narrower set of high value, high impact initiatives with the goal of strengthening and driving leverage across our entire portfolio of businesses,” he said. “Our roadmap will be supported by greater emphasis on simplicity, prioritization, and ultimate ROI and investment impact.”