Saturday, May 31, 2014

LiveDeal (LIVE) Versus Groupon (GRPN)

I got a glossy flyer in the mail prompting readers to check out LiveDeal (LIVE).  That's usually a bad sign; glossy mailers invite my sarcasm.  I can't see how this company differentiates itself from Groupon (GRPN).  They both allow retail merchants to push first-time discounts to customers.  They both have search functions that instantly geolocate the first-time user.  Their UIs both clarify final-offer prices, but LiveDeal specifies an expiration time to prompt that retail sense of urgency.  I guess that's their differentiator.

Let's glance at the fundamentals from Yahoo Finance and Reuters.  Here's LIVE first.
P/E:  N/A
Profit margin:  -114.42%
EPS 5yr growth:  N/A
ROE 5yr growth:  -84.0%

Now here's GRPN.
P/E:  N/A
Profit margin:  -4.73%
EPS 5yr growth:  N/A
ROE 5yr growth:  N/A

Both these companies have pathetic earnings histories.  They have lost money since 2011 and that's as far back as I need to go.  I am amazed that Groupon's market cap is 63x larger than LiveDeal's given their poor ability to generate earnings.  I guess sucker investors are paying a premium for Groupon's market share in the e-coupon vertical.  Groupon has 100x more revenue than LiveDeal and still can't make a profit.  That tells me that any business model solely focused on channeling retail discounts is not scalable.  A first-mover advantage doesn't mean jack squat in a vertical that offers no economies of scale.

I noticed that Groupon had more pics of attractive women and LiveDeal had more pics of food when I checked them out today.  Those are two of my favorite subjects.  This cursory glance at two sorry companies at least gave me some good visuals.

E-commerce is as crowded now as it was in the late 1990s.  Another shakeout is due and the survivors will have UIs optimized for mobile displays.  I don't care what either LiveDeal or Groupon look like on a mobile device because I don't need apps prompting me to urgently buy things I don't need, discount or no discount.  I also suspect the ultimate winner in the e-coupon vertical will have no more than a dozen employees and a marketing effort governed entirely by BRMS rule engines that automate the sorting and matching of offers.

Full disclosure:  No position in either LIVE or GRPN at this time.