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Pandora (P) Stock Up on Narrower-than-Expected Q1 Loss

Shares of Pandora Media, Inc. P surged over 8% in the aftermarket trading following the company’s strong first quarter 2016 results.

Adjusted loss per share (including stock-based compensation but excluding one-time items) of 37 cents per share compared favorably with the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a loss of 43 cents. Revenues of $297.3 million also outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $285.5 million and grew 28.8% year over year.

Quarter Details

Revenue growth in the quarter was primarily on account of higher advertising revenues 74.1% of revenues), which increased 23% from the year-ago quarter to $220.3 million. Subscription service and other revenues (18.4%) also improved 5% year over year to $54.7 million. Revenues from ticketing services (7.5%) were $22.3 million, up 30%.

Active listeners at the end of the quarter were 79.4 million, up 0.2 million year over year. Total listener hours grew 4% on a year-over-year basis to 5.52 billion.

Total revenue per thousand listener hours (RPM) was $49.84 in the quarter, up 14.5% from the year-ago quarter. The company’s total advertising revenues per thousand listener hours (Ad RPMs) increased 18.7% from the year-ago quarter to $45.47 in the reported quarter.

Margins

Pandora reported operating loss of $109.4 million, significantly up from $48.4 million reported in the year-ago quarter. Adjusted EBITDA loss of $57.4 million, increased considerably from loss of $20.9 million in the same quarter last year.

Balance Sheet & Cash Flow

Pandora exited the quarter with $349.3 million in cash and investments compared with $370.5 million as on Dec 31, 2015. In the quarter, cash used in operating activities was $13.1 million.

Outlook

Pandora provided outlook for the second quarter and raised the same for full year 2016.

For the second quarter of 2016, revenues are expected in a range of $345 million to $355 million. The company expects adjusted EBITDA loss to be in a band of $30 million to $20 million. Stock-based compensation expense of about $37 million and depreciation and amortization expense of $15 million and provision for income taxes of $0.5 million are not included in the forecasted adjusted EBITDA.

For 2016, revenues are now expected in a range of $1.41 billion to $1.43 billion compared with $1.40 and $1.42 billion expected earlier. Adjusted EBITDA loss is forecast to be in a range of $50 million to $70 million compared with the earlier guided range of a loss of $60 million to $80 million. The figure does not include an estimated stock-based compensation expense of $152 million and depreciation and amortization expense of $62 million.

Our Take

With strong first quarter numbers, Pandora has proved that its strategic initiatives are heading in the right direction.

It has been overhauling its operations to provide all of “radio, on-demand and live music” on its own platform. As part of the strategy, Pandora acquired companies like Next Big Sound, Rdio and Ticketfly. In addition, it is cutting deals to reduce dependence on CRB rates and better manage its content costs. Apart from Atlas Music, in December, Pandora signed multiyear licensing agreements with ASCAP and BMI, the eminent Performance Rights Organizations, Downtown Music Label, a leading rights management firm and Warner/Chappell Music.

Recently, Pandora added another interesting feature to its Artist Marketing Platform called AMPcast. This new feature will allow artists to send instant messages to a select group of fans. This could be an interesting monetization tool for Pandora. Also, the company is likely to expand its geographical presence and add subscription premium services to its portfolio in 2016, which can be important growth drivers, going ahead.

All these are expected to beat mounting competition from the likes of Spotify, Apple AAPL and Amazon AMZN. But rising costs related to licensing and higher operating expenses will continue to be a drag on profitability.

Currently, Pandora carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A better-ranked stock in the same space is 21Vianet Group, Inc. VNET, carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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