02/08/2012 05:04 EST | Updated 04/09/2012 05:12 EDT

Groupon posts 4th-quarter loss, sharply higher revenue in first report since IPO - shares fall

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Groupon investors were expecting a better deal than the surprise loss the company delivered on Wednesday.

The online deals site, reporting for the first time as a public company, said its fourth-quarter revenue nearly tripled, but it lost money and its shares fell sharply after hours.

Groupon's net loss totalled $42.7 million, or 8 cents per share, for the final three months of 2011. A year earlier, as a private company, it booked a larger loss of $378.6 million, or $1.08 per share.

The company said its adjusted loss was 2 cents per share in the latest quarter. On this basis, analysts were expecting a profit of 3 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Groupon said an unusually high international tax rate hurt the quarter's adjusted results.

Its stock fell $2.29, or 9.3 per cent, to $22.29 in after-hours trading.

Groupon's revenue was $506.5 million, nearly triple the $172.2 million it reported for last year's fourth quarter. Analysts, on average, had expected lower revenue $473.1 million, according to FactSet.

Groupon, which went public in November, makes money by taking a cut from the online deals it offers on a variety of goods and services such as restaurant meals and weekend getaways. Investors are watching whether this business model is sustainable and leads to growth over the long term, and whether the company can grow its customer base as well as the amount of money it makes from each subscriber.

The quarter's gross billings were $1.25 billion. That's how much customers paid for all the Groupons the company sold. It doesn't include taxes or account for the money the company paid to merchants.

For the current quarter Groupon expects revenue of $510 million to $550 million. Analysts are forecasting $501 million.

Groupon's stock has traded in the range of $14.85 to $31.14 since pricing at $20 ahead of its initial public offering on Nov. 4.