SEEK shares have slumped despite the job ads group upgrading its full-year earnings forecast, with the tipped 13 per cent rise seeming to fall short of investors’ expectations.
Chief executive Andrew Bassat told the company’s annual general meeting on Wednesday that pre-tax earnings for 2017/18 are now expected to swell by about 13 per cent from last financial year, up from SEEK’s previous forecast of 10 per cent growth.
SEEK shares spiked shortly before the release of AGM documents on the ASX but plummeted in afternoon trade as investors digested the news.
CMC Markets chief strategist Michael McCarthy said it was extraordinary SEEK shares had traded within a more than five per cent range on one day.
“Investors are having a hard time making up their mind about this one,” he said.
“We are now moving towards the bottom of that range, so on balance the market is less than impressed.”
Mr McCarthy said the market had already factored in a positive outlook from SEEK, which has a market value of $6.6 billion.
“Perhaps to some extent SEEK is a victim of its own success; it’s been trading at all-time highs in the lead up to this outlook statement,” he said.
Mr Bassat told shareholders the earnings performance of the Australian and New Zealand operations, Seek Asia and online education services so far this financial year have been encouraging but the company would have larger than expected interest costs related to its Chinese subsidiary, Zhaopin.
Interest expenses will be higher than anticipated due to higher debt on Zhaopin’s balance sheet.
SEEK finished Zhaopin’s privatisation last month, partnering with private equiry firms Hillhouse Capital Management and FountainVest Partners.
It still expects to make a net profit in the range of $220 million and $230 million in 2017/18, excluding investments of about $25 million in new business ventures.
Chairman Neil Chatfield told shareholders the company’s Australian and New Zealand business is the most advanced after a long period of reinvestment, while almost two thirds of the company’s revenue now comes from international operations.
“The success in ANZ has reaffirmed that reinvestment is the right strategy for our international businesses which offer much larger revenue opportunities than the ANZ business.”
Seek shares closed seven cents, or 3.6 per cent, lower at $18.70.