The stock is down 24% in midday trading to its lowest point since October after the company reported weaker than expected Q1 sales for display and search ads and took several charges that startled investors. Net income at $9.3M was down 64.1% vs the period last year on revenues of $583.3M, +8.4%. The top line beat forecasts for $577.7M. But with a $12M restructuring charge and a $10M asset impairment charge tied to software development earnings came in at 11 cents a share, well below the 45 cents that analysts expected. The writedown included Patch, the ailing local news service it has contributed to a joint venture.
In addition to the major surprises, many investors were chilled by a 3% year-over-year drop in global display ads, which had improved in Q4, and 1% decline in global search. CEO Tim Armstrong looked on the bright side saying that this was the fifth consecutive quarter of growth in several metrics as AOL seeks to build sales for online video and — his favorite term — programmatic, or computer generated, ad sales. “AOL’s investment in global media and technology platforms is allowing AOL to compete on a global scale,” he says.