Shares of Facebook game developer Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA) and daily deals website Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) have soared following reports of activist hedge fund Jana Partners revealing small stakes in the companies. The hedge fund, run by Barry Rosenstein, said in a 13F filing that it holds slightly above 3 percent of the outstanding shares in both companies. This news obviously had a positive impact on the stocks and lifted them from recent lows.
Better Valuations? Not So Fast
However, investors rushing to buy these stocks may be in for a rude surprise a few months down the line. While involvement of big investors such as Jana Partners indicates that the stocks are undervalued, it also indicates the fund’s thinking that the management of such companies is not performing up to the mark and needs to be shaken. Jana Partners is no different and has a history of pressuring companies to amend their business strategies, including breaking up companies into smaller entities and campaigning for an outright sale to a bigger investor. This should ring warning bells for potential investor,s as there are no doubts that some of the decisions taken by the management of both companies backfired.
Groupon’s Andrew Mason Was Forced To Leave
This is particularly true for Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN), where chief executive Andrew Mason was forced to leave the company after he pretty much drove it into the ground. The stock has been reviving ever since Mason left the company, and while the revival was partially aided by better first quarter results, it is still too early to say that the company is out of the woods. It posted quarterly revenue of $601.4 million, up from $559.3 million in the same period a year ago, but there are concerns lingering regarding the company’s switch to smartphones. Another misstep and the management may find itself entwined in calls for a reshuffle from activists.
Zynga’s Value Erosion
The situation with Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA) is not very different—it has seen a value erosion of nearly 60 percent over the last year. The company posted sales revenue of $263.6 during the March quarter, down substantially from $321 million in the same quarter in 2011, but investors found solace in the fact that it managed to post profits by cutting on costs. In recent months, the stock also got some tailwind from legalization of online gambling in some U.S. states – a development that bodes well for the company. Although it is a debt-free company and the stock is available close to its book value, it does little to reduce the potential downside. The company has been working to penetrate the mobile games market without major success so far and still relies heavily on Facebook for generating revenues.