Criteo Earnings Remain Flat As Browser Changes Spook Investors

Criteo’s revenues totaled $558 million in Q1 2019, a 1% decline from last year, though net profitability increased 1% to $21 million, the company said in its quarterly earnings on Tuesday.

The core retargeting business outperformed forecasts, helping to keep revenue at a relative plateau, but Criteo’s non-retargeting businesses, like in-app advertising and audience onboarding, aren’t growing enough to meet its targets.

For instance, Criteo had a 63% annual growth target for its in-app ad business, but only saw 32% growth last quarter, CEO JB Rudelle told investors. Revenue from those new products grew 74% year over year, but they’re growing from a small base and still account for only 9% of the total business.

Criteo needs to develop new revenue lines because the value of site cookies is declining and browsers like Apple’s Safari now block most user retargeting. If its non-retargeting solutions don’t accelerate, the company is dangerously exposed to shifts in browser policies.

The company’s stock price dropped 12% as Criteo struggles to gain critical mass with its non-retargeting businesses.

Criteo’s initial goal was for non-retargeting revenue to be 30% of the overall business by the end of 2020. The company is unlikely to hit that mark by next year, however, and is revising down its growth forecast because of the hiring and execution challenges in switching from desktop sales to apps and retail media.

Desktop sales outperformed in Q1 this year, and are growing in markets like North America and Europe. But investors don’t like Criteo being so reliant on browser operators – Apple and Google – when those same companies can and have quashed ad tech vendors with policy changes.

Chrome represents 50% of Criteo’s overall business, Rudelle said. But he said that unlike Safari, Chrome’s cookie and identity updates will preserve ad ecosystem products and that Criteo is working “hand-in-hand” with Google on those changes.

If Chrome were to embrace an anti-tracking policy like Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), that 50% would crash.

But Criteo has insulated itself from cookie and browser trends by strengthening its identity graph with non-cookie data, Rudelle said, like clients’ onboarding data or mobile device IDs, which come from its in-app ad business.

Compared to non-walled garden competitors, he said Criteo is even better positioned to win using non-cookie identifiers. “It’s probably because we’ve been impacted probably much more than others on ITP that we also invested much more (in the identity graph).”

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