Global job board operator Monster Worldwide reported a stronger finish to 2013 than analysts were expecting, beating their average earnings estimate by 5 cents a share and their revenue estimate by $3.4 million.
The company reported this m0rning it earned 11 cents per share versus the 6 cents a share analysts were predicting. Monster also offered a rosier outlook for the current quarter, forecasting it would earn between 6 cents and 10 cents per share.
Wall Street liked what it heard, bidding up the stock by more than 20 percent to $7.13 a share just after the opening.
The $198.7 million in revenue was the first time in two years that Monster grew revenue from quarter to quarter. Even more so than per share earnings, the dollars suggest a firming of Monster’s fortunes and, as Chairman, President and CEO Sal Iannuzzi said, it’s further evidence of improvement in the global economy.
Telling analysts on a conference call after the numbers were released this morning that the economy in most major markets of the world is improving, he said he sees the trend continuing this year.
From the third to the fourth quarter, revenue from job postings and resume searching in both North America (the company’s largest market) and elsewhere grew. Though the numbers were off from the last quarter of 2012, the improvement may mean the bottom was reached.
A hopeful sign that may be the case, said Iannuzzi, is that Monster’s e-commerce business is growing by double-digits. Those are the self-service job postings bought by low-volume employers, typically small companies who need to fill the occasional job. Growth here, Iannuzzi noted, is an early indicator of growth in the big-dollar contract business, which, he added, is also growing.
Momentum there, he said, is “more positive than it was a year ago.”
Adding an air of mystery to what is usually a straightforward discussion of dollars and cents, Iannuzzi hinted at some new strategies to be discussed at a May 14 meeting.
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In the press release announcing the fourth quarter and full-year financials, Iannuzzi says, “We continue to execute on several important initiatives that we believe will significantly improve our market share and increase profitability.”
Pressed during the conference, the CEO declined. “I’d rather not go into detail,” he said, coyly noting, “I agree we haven’t given much.”
Later, he said that the company thinking is focused on delivering a product that will keep customers from looking elsewhere for their hiring, and less on revenue — though making money is the objective, he quickly added.
Whatever that strategy is, it has some powerful challenges to face. CareerBuilder, a privately owned company, voluntarily said it had revenue from its North American operations of $171 million. (It doesn’t release any other numbers.) Off slightly from the previous quarter, CareerBuilder was still 4.3 percent ahead of the same quarter last year while Monster was down .5 percent.
LinkedIn, which will report its fourth quarter financial results this afternoon, is another key competitor. Since going public three years ago, the company has been growing by double digits. In the third quarter last year, its recruitment revenue was $224.7 million.
It also has to confront the challenge posed by the rising number of job search engines, and in particular Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com. Both privately held, neither of them report any financial results. But last year, Indeed was sold for more than a billion dollars to a Japanese conglomerate. Monster, which had put itself up for sale months earlier, failed to find a buyer.