It's fair to say that The Trade Desk (NASDAQ: TTD) has turned some heads. The programmatic digital ad-buying company's stock has soared more than 300% over the past 12 months, and its market capitalization swelled from around $3 billion to nearly $10 billion over the same period. With such wild performance behind it, investors will be watching the company closely when it reports its first-quarter results next week.
Ahead of The Trade Desk's quarterly update, here's an overview of the company's recent results as well as a preview of some key items to watch when it reports first-quarter earnings.
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Connected TV-fueled growth
It only takes a few minutes of analysis for investors to acknowledge The Trade Desk's incredible momentum. Revenue soared 55% year over year in 2018 -- an acceleration from 52% growth in 2017. In addition, the company's net income last year was $88.1 million, up from $50.8 million in 2017.
But there are even more promising metrics beneath the surface.
Driving this momentum was broad-based growth in ad spend across advertising channels on its platform. Connected TV ad spend increased nine-fold in 2018 compared to 2017 and had a material impact on results, helping drive the company's revenue acceleration in Q4 and in 2018. Audio ad spend on the platform soared 230% year over year in 2018, while mobile video and mobile in-app spend jumped 130% and 90%, respectively.
Supporting this growth is a total overhaul to the company's platform, which rolled out last June and saw an impressive 70% customer adoption rate by the end of the year.
First-quarter earnings preview
Looking ahead to The Trade Desk's first quarter and the rest of 2019, management expects more strong growth.
The company guided for first-quarter revenue of $116 million and adjusted earnings before interest taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of $18.3 million. This compares to revenue of $85.7 million and adjusted EBITDA of $18.9 million in the first quarter of 2018.
Given The Trade Desk's habitual outperformance relative to its guidance, investors should look for both revenue and adjusted EBITDA to come in slightly above these figures.
In The Trade Desk's first-quarter earnings call, CEO Jeff Green certainly wasn't shy about acknowledging the possibility of better-than-expected results in 2019. Speaking about the company's guidance for an EBITDA margin of 29% for the full year, Green said:
In the coming year, we will continue to make investments in high-end growth areas, just as in prior years. We estimate our EBITDA margin in 2019 to be about 29%. But like prior years, when we've seen surprises, they tend to be the upside and the upside has fallen directly to the bottom line.
Of course, it's always possible that The Trade Desk reports a worse-than-expected quarter. Betting on a single quarter to beat expectations, therefore, probably isn't wise. However, the company's history of execution and its recent momentum suggest the ad-buying platform has a bright future ahead over the long haul.
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