On Thursday afternoon, Andrew Mason, the chief executive of Groupon, got on a conference call to try to convince Wall Street that the third-quarter financials the company had just announced were not as bad as they seemed. “To understand the numbers, you have to dig below the surface and look at Groupon’s two regional businesses,” Mason said at the outset. “Our North American business, which is now over four years old and our oldest market, shows the power and potential of our model.”Sure, Mason explained, the company he co-founded was struggling through challenges in Europe, but “we’re on the right track, and our North American playbook technology and merchant focus applies to our international business.”
Talk about a CEO who no longer has any credibility with investors. When markets opened on Friday, Groupon’s shares got pummeled. Going into the earnings announcement, many thought the financial situation at Groupon couldn’t possibly get any worse. The stock was already the worst performing major stock in the U.S. stock market in 2012. Guys like Jeff Houston, an analyst at Barrington Research Associates, were pretty sure Groupon would meet Wall Street’s modest expectations. But that is not what happened. Groupon revenues in the third quarter came in at $568.6 million, not the $591 million Wall Street was expecting. This from a young online company offering daily deals that was hyped only a year ago as a big growth story.