Shares of IAC/InterActiveCorp declined Wednesday amid investor confusion over the company's 2013 guidance following a mistake by a financial-information provider.
IAC's third-quarter results, released before the market opened, beat Wall Street's expectations and the Internet company's stock was up slightly in early trading. But the stock later plunged almost 16 percent based on what appeared to be a misinterpretation of its guidance for 2013 by FactSet Research.
Shortly before its 11 a.m. EDT earnings conference call, IAC issued a statement saying that it expects to report an operating loss for its "media and other" segment in 2013. FactSet then mistakenly reported that IAC was expecting an operating loss for the whole company. IAC said it pointed out the error during its earnings conference call.
FactSet said it recognized the error and promptly issued a correction. In the confusion, the Nasdaq exchange briefly halted trading in IAC stock. The exchange later canceled some trades that took place while the stock was halted and shouldn't have occurred, according to its website.
Even with the mistake cleared up, IAC's stock still ended Wednesday's trading down more than 8 percent. Benchmark Co. analyst James Dobson said IAC's guidance was "soft" but noted that IAC traditionally provides a conservative outlook.
The company said it expects to have "solid double-digit revenue and profit growth on a consolidated basis for 2013." But it followed its custom of not giving a specific earnings and revenue guidance.
Dobson called Wednesday's stock price drop "an overreaction to a bunch of things," not just the FactSet error. IAC, the analyst said, also spent a lot of money on the About.com site it bought from The New York Times and had little to show for it in the quarter. IAC bought the About Group for $300 million in a deal that closed last month.
In addition to About.com, IAC also runs websites including Match.com and Ask.com, and has a controlling stake in the company that owns Newsweek Daily Beast Co. Former Fox and Paramount executive Barry Diller is the New York company's chairman.
The company earned $40.7 million, or 43 cents per share, in the third quarter. That's down from $65 million, or 69 cents per share, a year earlier.
Earnings adjusted to exclude discontinued operations, the cost of paying employee stock options and other items were 71 cents per share.
Revenue grew 38 percent to $714.5 million from $ 516.9 million.
Analysts, on average, were expecting earnings of 66 cents per share on revenue of $692.8 million, according to a poll by FactSet.
IAC's stock fell $4.41 to close at $48. It fluctuated from as low as $45.06 to as high as $53.98 during the day.