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Yelp上市可能乘兴而来败兴而归

Kevin Kelleher 2011年12月01日

团购网站Groupon、流媒体音乐网站Pandora和商务社交网站LinkedIn业绩纷纷下滑或极易遭到过度解读,但大众点评网站Yelp眼下面临的逆境确实可能让它深陷麻烦。

    不过,仔细审视Yelp的IPO招股书会发现,这家公司其实与Groupon颇为神似,这可能会让众多投资者感到不安。其一,Yelp的财报始终是亏损状态。2011年的前9个月,它的运营亏损达到740万美元,相当于它这段时期4,030万美元营收的15%。迄今为止,Yelp的累计亏损已达到3,200万美元(而相比之下,Zynga公司同期的运营利润达到了10%)。

    收入增长缓慢,这是Groupon近期让人担忧的一大问题,但Yelp还不至于受到这一问题的严重困扰。2009年,Yelp的收入增长了113%。2010年,增长率放缓,降至85%,但2011年前9个月,这个数字仍然稳定地维持在80%。最近一个财季,Yelp的收入比上一财季增长了18%。而同期Groupon的增长率仅为为9%。虽然Yelp比Groupon的历史要长,它的连续增长率却是后者的两倍。

    不过,Yelp还面临一些Groupon所没有的问题。其一,它的运营成本持续上涨。上一财季,Yelp的销售和营销成本达到了总收入的67%,比上一财季的63%还高。同样的,产品研发成本从14%增至16%,行政成本从18%增至21%。

    尤其需要警惕的是,Yelp还没有产生现金流,其运营还不足以支撑其自身的开销。2011年的前9个月,运营产生的现金流是负值296,000美元,尽管与一年前负值640万美元相比,已经大幅下降。Groupon的现金流自2009年以来就始终是正值,而Yelp虽然即将上市,其运营却似乎完全是靠烧钱来维持。

    作为一家新创企业,Yelp广受欢迎,增长迅速,它需要筹集资本来实现未来的增长。但不幸的是,它多年亏损,历年来都无法从运营中产生现金流。这些情况表明,它现在进行IPO有些操之过急。鉴于市场近期对亏损赔钱的网络公司IPO热情不再,这对它来说实在不是好兆头。

    曾有一度,在难以捉摸的经济环境中,社交网络的美好前景让LinkedIn和Yelp这类公司似乎成了投资者的避风港,但这种美好时光也许已经不复存在。诸如Zynga这类能够盈利的公司在IPO市场上仍将受到热捧,而业绩欠佳的公司就很可能会不受待见,而是会被橡皮球一样被人踢来踢去。而期间发出的尖叫(yelp)不可能悦耳。

    译者:清远

    But a closer look at Yelp's IPO prospectus shows the company looks more Groupon-y than many investors would be comfortable with. For one thing, Yelp has consistently posted a loss. In the first nine months of 2011, it showed an operating loss of $7.4 million, equal to 15% of its $40.3 million revenue in that period. To date, Yelp has accumulated $32 million in losses. (Zynga, by contrast had a 10% operating margin in the first nine months of 2011.)

    Slowing revenue growth, one of Groupon's recent concerns, isn't afflicting Yelp so much. In 2009, Yelp's revenue grew by 113%. In 2010, the growth rate slowed somewhat to 85% but held steady at 80% for the first nine months of 2011. Yelp's most recent quarter saw revenue grow 18% from the previous quarter, compared with a 9% growth rate for Groupon. Although Yelp is older than Groupon, it's growing twice as fast sequentially.

    Still, Yelp faces some problems that Groupon doesn't. For one, its operating costs are rising. Yelp's sales and marketing costs were equal to 67% of its revenue last quarter, up from 63% in the previous quarter. Similarly, product-development costs rose to 16% of revenue from 14% and administrative costs rose to 21% from 18%.

    Even more alarming, Yelp has yet to generate cash flows. Its operations aren't yet financing themselves. Cash flows from operations were a negative $296,000 in the first nine months of 2011, although that figure was down from negative $6.4 million a year earlier. While Groupon has been cash-flow positive since 2009, Yelp's operations appear to be burning through cash even as it's going public.

    Yelp is a popular and growing startup that needs to raise capital to finance its future growth. Unfortunately, its years of losses and historical inability to generate cash from operations suggest the IPO is being rushed. That's too bad for the company, given the recent sense of disenchantment with money-losing web IPOs.

    For some time, the promise of the social web made companies like LinkedIn and Yelp seem like investor safe havens in an uncertain economy. But maybe not anymore. A profitable company like Zynga could still receive a warm welcome in the IPO market. But weaker companies are likely to get kicked around. The yelps that result won't be happy ones.

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