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Groupon plunges as revenue, profit forecasts miss estimates

[PORTLAND] Groupon Inc fell 24 per cent in premarket trading in New York after the online marketplace late Tuesday forecast weaker-than-estimated profit and sales for the current quarter and promoted Rich Williams to chief executive officer.

Groupon predicted fourth-quarter adjusted per share results ranging from a loss of 1 US cent to earnings of 1 US cent, compared with the average analysts' estimate of earnings of 7 US cents, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The company forecast sales this quarter of US$815 million to US$865 million, compared with the average estimate of US$956 million.

Mr Williams will replace co-founder Eric Lefkofsky, who, after two years in the job, will return to the role of chairman. Mr Williams, who has served as chief operating officer since June after a stint as president for North America, will take up the job immediately, Groupon said in a statement.

Mr Lefkofsky, who took the helm in 2013 after the company ousted co-founder Andrew Mason, has worked to turn the company from a daily deals provider into an online marketplace. He also cut costs and refocused on the US, reducing Groupon's stakes abroad. In an phone interview after the announcement, Mr Williams said he will stay that course, streamlining international operations and possibly cutting some jobs.

"Our work is definitely not done, there's a lot for us to do," Mr Williams said. "I've been here almost 4-1/2 years, I have the benefit of not needing the proverbial 100 days, I know what we need to do." Groupon reported adjusted third-quarter earnings of 5 cents a share, compared with estimates of 2 US cents, while sales declined to US$713.6 million, missing the average estimate of US$733 million. The shares were suspended for two hours on Tuesday.

Mr Lefkofsky replaces Ted Leonsis as chairman, also effective immediately, Groupon said in a statement. Mr Leonsis will become lead independent director, the company said.

On possible job cuts, Mr Williams said the company would know more as it evaluates its options.