Why Analysts Are Chasing Yelp Much Higher

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When Yelp Inc. (NYSE: YELP) released its second-quarter financial results after the markets closed Tuesday, it absolutely stunned investors. Among the highlights, Yelp showed that its local revenue increased 41% from its second quarter of 2015. The company also named Jed Nachman as its chief operating officer. Geoff Donaker will be retiring from the COO position after 11 years with the company, but Yelp did say that Donaker will serve as a strategic advisor and will retain his seat on Yelp’s board of directors.

24/7 Wall St. has included some highlights from the earnings report, as well as what analysts are saying after the fact.

Net revenue was up 30% to $173.4 million in the second quarter. Its cumulative reviews also rose by 30% from a year ago (to 108 million). Yelp’s total app unique devices rose by 27% from a year ago to approximately 23 million on a monthly average basis. Another growth path came from local advertising accounts, which rose by 32% from a year ago to roughly 128,000.

Earnings per share (EPS) totaled $0.16 for the quarter, versus $0.12 per share, in the second quarter of 2015. Thomson Reuters was calling for −$0.07 EPS on revenue of $169.8 million.

Credit Suisse had an Outperform rating and raised what was already a huge upside target of $46 up to $50. The investment firm believes that Yelp delivered better-than-expected top and bottom line results for the second straight quarter primarily on the strength of its local advertising revenue; both local active advertisers and average revenue per user (ARPU) came in ahead of estimates.

The firm further detailed in its report:

Management also offered better-than-expected initial 3Q16 guidance for revenue/adj. EBITDA of $180 million-$184 million/$24 million-$28 million, which implies 35% incremental margins over 3Q15, which still benefited from ~$9 million in high margin Brand Advertising revenue. As we have noted earlier, we believe the pace of hiring is a leading indicator and given the usual 6-9 month ramp for new sales personnel to become effective – we believe we have passed the inflection point but should see continued acceleration in Local Advertising Revenue as sales force headcount growth…. Our $50 target price is based on discounted cash flow, using an 11% weighted average cost of capital and 3% terminal growth rate.

Merrill Lynch upgraded Yelp to Neutral from Underperform and raised the price target to $37 from $22. The firm saw an improving sales execution at the same time that margins are rebounding. Its report focused on the earnings beat being driven by continued strong growth in advertising accounts and from an unexpected uptick in revenue per advertiser account.

A few other analysts weighed in as well:

  • Robert Baird has a Neutral rating and raised the price target to $35 from $25.
  • Barclays has an Equal Weight rating and raised the price target to $30 from $25.
  • Cowen has a Market Perform rating but raised its price target from $25 to $38.
  • Deutsche Bank has a Buy rating and raised the price target to $41 from $33.
  • Goldman Sachs raised its price target to $38 from $29.
  • Jefferies raised the price target to $42 from $28.
  • JPMorgan has an Overweight rating and raised the target to $42 from $30.
  • Needham has a Buy rating and raised the price target from $34 to $42.
  • Piper Jaffray has a Neutral rating and raised the price target to $35 from $22.
  • Raymond James upgraded to an Outperform rating from Market Perform.
  • RBC has an Outperform rating and raised its price target to $48 from $36.
  • Susquehanna Financial raised its price target to $35 from $22.
  • UBS raised the price target to $25 from $17.
  • Wedbush has a Neutral rating and raised the price target from $30 to $35.

Shares of Yelp were trading up about 15% at $37.45 on Wednesday, with a consensus analyst price target of $27.98 and a 52-week trading range of $14.53 to $37.57.