Yahoo stock falls 8% on display ad worries

@CNNMoneyTech July 20, 2011: 5:08 PM ET
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Yahoo shares slumped almost 8% Wednesday, one day after the company reported earnings and said changes to its sales organization weakened the display ad sector.

Second-quarter net earnings came in at 18 cents per share, which matched analysts' estimates, and sales were $1.08 billion, just below forecasts of $1.1 billion.

But display ad revenue rose just 5% over the year to $467 million. On a conference call after the release, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz attributed that "softness" to changes in the sales organization, which included a leadership shakeup as well as some people leaving the company.

"We did not have enough salespeople in front of the big clients," she said.

Shares fell almost 4% in after-hours trading immediately following the report Tuesday. They recovered a bit as the evening went on, but Wednesday was even worse: Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) shares ended the day 7.6% lower.

Concerns about display sector: JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth said in a note to clients Wednesday that he will maintain a "neutral" rating on Yahoo shares, explaining that the company does have issues but could resolve them in time.

"AOL went through a similar reorg in late 2009/early 2010, and it took about a year for the company to rebuild the pipeline and return to growth," Anmuth said.

And Yahoo is better positioned than AOL, Anmuth said, because the company has removed low-quality inventory.

Cranky shareholders blast Yahoo and Carol Bartz

The display ad business is a concern and "will be an overhang in the near term," Anmuth said, noting that Yahoo estimates it can get the sector to 13%-16% growth in 2012.

Display advertising was once Yahoo's biggest stronghold, but it's now facing sharp competition from rivals Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) and Facebook.

Overall, Anmuth expects it will take three or more quarters "for Yahoo to return to normalized levels."

Weak search and outlook: Disappointing display ads were just one of the weak spots in Yahoo's report Tuesday.

Yahoo's $1.08 billion in sales marked a 5% decline over the year. The company attributed that decline to its deal with Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500), whose Bing technology underpins Yahoo's search site. In return, Yahoo hands over 12% of its search advertising revenue to Microsoft.

Specifically, search revenue was even weaker than display: down 15% over the year to $371 million.

Yahoo forecast that it will bring in third-quarter revenue between $1.05 billion and $1.1 billion, excluding the traffic acquisition costs. Analysts had been expecting $1.12 billion. To top of page

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