Yahoo meets Q4 targets but search, display revenue continues to drop

UPDATED: How valuable (in sales and revenue) are those daily habits anyway? Also, don't expect a new COO anytime soon.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Revamped mobile apps. Numerous startup acquisitions. It's a strategy that Yahoo has not strayed from in the year and a half since Marissa Mayer took over as CEO.

But what about the core businesses that made Yahoo into the giant it once was and wants to be again? (Those would be search and ads -- the ones that basically monetize everything else. They're also the ones that analysts and investors care about most.)

With its fourth quarter and full year 2013 earnings report in the can, it's time to evaluate.

The search company reported fourth quarter net earnings of $348 million, or 33 cents per share (statement).

Non-GAAP earnings were 46 cents per share, up 31 percent from the same quarter last year, with a revenue of $1.266 billion.

Revenue excluding traffic acquisition costs (TAC) was $1.2 billion, down two percent annually.

Wall Street was looking for earnings of 38 cents per share and $1.20 billion in revenue.

For 2013 overall, Yahoo delivered $4.426 billion in revenue, down one percent year-over-year, with earnings of $1.52 per share, an increase of 16 percent year-over-year.

But the notable declines were in display and search ad revenue. Here's an overview:

  • Q4 display revenue (excluding TAC) was $491 million, down six percent annually.
  • 2013 display revenue (excluding TAC) was $1.737 billion, down nine percent annually.
  • Price-per-Ad (excluding Korea) was down seven percent annually.
  • Price-per-Click (excluding Korea) decreased three percent annually.

As a result, Yahoo shares started to tumble in after-hours trading.

Nevertheless, there were a few bright spots in this regard. Paid clicks (excluding Korea) increased approximately 17 percent annually. Additionally, Q4 search revenue (excluding TAC) was $461 million, up eight percent annually. Annual search revenue climbed eight percent year-over-year to $1.699 billion.

Regardless, Mayer maintained her daily habits focus and rhetoric, focusing on other products in prepared remarks:

I'm encouraged by Yahoo's performance in Q4 and 2013 overall. We saw continued stability in the business, and our investments allowed us to bring beautiful products to our users and establish a strong foundation for revenue growth. In Q4, we launched the new Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Finance, and our new Flickr photo books, while quickening our pace of experimentation. We are extremely heartened by the year-over-year traffic increase we experienced in 2013, an early sign of return on our investments and the acquisitions we've made.

For the current quarter, Wall Street expects Yahoo to return with earnings of 41 cents per share on a revenue of $1.08 billion.

Yahoo is expected to provide guidance during the live webcast/conference call at 2:00PM PT/5:00PM ET.

UPDATE: Much like in the Q4 report, Yahoo executives preferred to focus on some of the flashier and newer products in the portfolio. For instance, Mayer put the spotlight on Yahoo's new Tech and Food verticals, which she declared would be already the third largest print magazine, in terms of circulation, when combined.

Mayer also reiterated that Tumblr and Flickr serve as the two core properties serving as the foundation for all of its other digital magazines and apps.

Yahoo chief financial officer Ken Goldman took on the task of defending the Q4 balance sheet given some disappointing decline in display, although he argued that Yahoo is actually on track to where it should be -- at least according to internal projections.

Goldman also offered a revenue guidance range of $1.12 billion to 1.16 billion, including TAC. Excluding TAC, the forecast is $1.06 billion to $1.1 billion. Goldman added that Yahoo will refrain from offering full year guidance at this time.

Mayer also responded frankly about the recent departure of chief operating officer Henrique de Castro, saying he was "not a fit," and that he would not be immediately replaced either.

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