Is Millennial Media Still Viable?

Millennial Media Inc. (NYSE: MM) has been a controversial company from its start as a public company. Unfortunately, its aim is to target mobile first, via mobile advertising, mobile intelligence reporting, and a mobile-first audience platform. With shares hitting an all-time low on disappointing earnings and a chief financial officer’s departure, investors should start wondering whether this company will survive. We took a look at the books and expectations, and questions remain.

The company’s net loss of $0.12 per share was wider than a five-cent loss from a year ago. Its “analyst comparable” non-GAAP income was a loss of $0.04 per share, wider than a penny loss a year ago. Revenues of $72.6 million did grow from $49.4 million a year ago, but that was still shy of the estimate of $75.5 million.

Guidance was weak as well. The second quarter range was put between $70 million and $75 million, with expectations previously coming in above $96 million.

The real heartbreak here is that its CFO, Michael Avon, will leave the company at the end of the second quarter. His reason for leaving: to pursue other interests. As far as why investors have to care, when a CFO leaves it often spooks investors into worrying that something is wrong with the books or that underlying financial problems may be there, though that is not to say that this is the case here.

We would point out that Millennial Media is under a new chief executive officer, and this was just the CEO’s first full quarter at the helm.

What is amazing is that Millennial Media reached more than 650 million monthly unique users globally at the end of the quarter. Approximately 170 million monthly unique users are said to be in the United States.

Analysts have bolted on the stock as well. We have seen the following analyst comments:

  • Canaccord Genuity lowered its price target to $4 from $7.
  • Stifel lowered its target to $6 from $10.
  • Oppenheimer lowered its rating to Perform from Outperform, removing its $10 target.
  • Morgan Stanley downgraded the stock to Underweight from Equal Weight.

Oppenheimer’s analyst note said that there is limited visibility around the Performance segment, and while it is the premier brand solution for mobile advertising, it is again losing share among app-install ads. Oppenheimer went on to say that this market is being dominated by larger competitors, who can leverage scale to offer lower pricing per download. The report even said that Millennial Media saw lower demand from several large app-install advertisers around hit-driven games — and that it could not replace this with other app-install advertisers.

With management withdrawing its 20% revenue growth, and with the CFO bailing out, more clarity is needed on Millennial Media’s market position.

Millennial Media shares had previously seen a range of $5.30 to $10.48 over the past 52-weeks, but the $2.90 print earlier this morning marked a new all-time low. Shares were down 37% to $3.33 on well over 8 million shares in early afternoon trading on Thursday.

The long and short of the matter is that everyone wants to win in mobile ads and in mobile content. Everyone knows that is where the growth trends are. The problem is that monetizing mobile is far easier in theory than it is in reality.

Millennial Media has a market cap of $358 million after this drop, and its cash and equivalents were close to $100 million at the end of the quarter with no serious debt. It was also previously expected that Millennial Media would be profitable in 2015, due in part from major revenue growth.

Before you panic about long-term viability woes, the balance sheet would seem to indicate that this company likely has many more quarters that it can operate at GAAP and non-GAAP losses. That being said, an all-time low, a disappointing post-IPO period in 2012, and a management team in a state of flux should only continue to leave investors scratching their heads as to what the company’s future is.

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