LinkedIn Sales Up 47% In Q4, Acquires Job Site Bright

LinkedIn on Thursday reported that revenue rose 47% in the fourth quarter of 2013, despite a modest slowdown in ad sales growth from the prior quarter.

The professional social network had adjusted net income for the quarter of $48.2 million -- or 39 cents a share -- compared with $40.2 million, or 35 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue increased to $447.2 million from $330.6 million in the year-earlier period.

Wall Street analysts, on average, projected adjusted earnings of 38 cents a share for LinkedIn on revenue of $438 million.

LinkedIn’s user base globally grew to 277 million in the fourth quarter -- up 7% from 259 million in the third quarter, and 38.5% from 200 million a year ago.

"Solid fourth-quarter performance capped another successful year where improvements in scale and relevance across our platform led to strong member engagement," said LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, in the earnings release.

LinkedIn also announced the acquisition of data-driven jobs site Bright for $120 million, making it the company’s largest purchase to date. In a blog post today, the company said the Bright team “takes the same data-driven approach to connecting people and employers, and has built a powerful matching technology that will help accelerate our efforts on multiple fronts.”

The move could further bolster the company’s recruiting services business, which already provides the bulk of its revenue. Sales in its Talent Solutions unit in the fourth quarter increased 53% from a year ago to $245.6 million, accounting for 53% of total revenue.

Sales from LinkedIn’s premium subscriptions business increased 48% to $88.1 million, or 20% of overall revenue. Marketing Solutions -- its advertising division -- rose 36% to $113.5 million, or a quarter of overall revenue. That marks a decline, however, from the 38% growth in the prior quarter and is flat with the second quarter of 2013.

LinkedIn’s ad business is in a transitional phase, as it shifts from a reliance on traditional display ads and sponsorships to ads that run in a user’s news feed, called Sponsored Updates. LinkedIn has said it has seen promising early results with the new ad format to date, but that phasing in the in-stream unit could affect ad growth into 2014.

During the earnings conference call, Weiner said Sponsored Updates account for 13% of total ad sales two quarters after being opened up to all advertisers. LinkedIn’s mobile properties account for two-thirds of the sales of the native ad unit to date.

Looking ahead, LinkedIn projected first-quarter revenue would be in the range of $455 million to $460 million. That represents a 40% increase over the year-earlier quarter, but falls short of the $470 million in analysts had forecast.

The weaker-than-expected outlook sent LinkedIn shares down about 7% in after-hours trading after the stock closed Thursday at $223.45.

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