Linkedin's Profit Growth Leaves Social Media Peers Trailing Behind

| About: LinkedIn (LNKD)

The past two days have been exciting for social media investors. On Wednesday, Yelp (NYSE:YELP) roared 22% higher, befuddling shorts expecting the expiration of its lock up would send shares lower. And, on Thursday, music purveyor Pandora (NYSE:P) jumped 14% following its earnings release.

Could this mean investors are finally warming up to social again?

It's too early to declare a brave new world. Since Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) IPO debacle, social media bulls have been mostly missing in action, while social doomsayers have been having a field day.

And, while some social plays will go the way of Internet bust poster child, there's going to be a few Amazon-like (NASDAQ:AMZN) winners.

Linkedin (NYSE:LNKD) may be one of them.

Most social media business plans focus on getting us to believe reading our friends missives are worth paying for, mostly via clicks.

Linkedin's business model is more robust.

By helping job seekers eager to move up the ladder - or get back on the rungs - Linkedin is able to charge users for premium services while reaping substantial revenue from job postings.

So far, results suggest Linkedin's business-first approach is far more profit friendly than competitors' social-first approach.

In the most recent quarter, Linkedin's sales increased 89% to $228 million. That's faster growth than Yelp's 67%, Pandora's 51% and laggard Facebook's 19% rate.

And while Facebook is operating off a larger base generating $1.184 billion in sales last quarter, it is Linkedin who is translating growth into bigger profits.

In the quarter, Linkedin's earnings per share climbed 45% to $0.16. Facebook's were flat at $0.12. Yelp lost as much as it did the year before. And, Pandora eked out a profit of a mere penny, half what it netted a year ago.

Granted, no one is going to confuse Linkedin with a value stock. Linkedin is the epitome of a growth stock and no value investor will go near it. But, earnings are growing quickly. For FY2013, analysts expect the company to earn $1.31, twice what Facebook is expected to earn and much more than Yelp and Pandora, which are estimated to generate $0.05 and $0.04 in annual earnings respectively.

So, while a lot of excitement surrounds the Yelp and Pandora's double digit gains, investors should keep in mind a good deal of those moves were tied to oversized short positions rather than seismic business growth. Rather than chasing those, investors would be best served focusing on Linkedin's strong growth instead.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in YELP over the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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