IAC Shares Decline as Google Ad Changes Take Toll on Sales

IAC/InterActiveCorp, the owner of websites ranging from Match.com to About.com, slumped after Google Inc.’s changes on advertising prices dragged down revenue in the fourth quarter.

IAC shares slid 5.5 percent to $65.04, the biggest one-day decline since Oct. 30. The stock has climbed 53 percent in the past 12 months.

Last year Google, the biggest search-engine company, recalibrated its algorithm for the prices set by its advertising services. That followed other policy shifts by Google in late

2012. With the changes, the company’s biggest unit, search and applications, has fallen short of analysts’ projections, causing total sales to miss estimates in three out of four quarters.

“Google looked at a lot of the things that we were doing and adjusted what they felt they needed to adjust,” Joey Levin, chief executive officer of the search business, said on a call to analysts and investors today. “We saw our share of volatility in 2013.”

IAC has expanded its search business by focusing on question-and-answer sites. The New York-based company agreed to buy a group of ValueClick Inc. websites, including finance-education site Investopedia and price-comparison platform PriceRunner, for $80 million in December. IAC spent $300 million to acquire About.com from New York Times Co. in 2012.

Dating Business

Total sales fell 5.3 percent to $724.5 million in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, IAC said today in a statement, missing the $743.3 million average estimate of analysts compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue at the search and applications unit declined 7.6 percent to $373 million.

Dating services, including Match.com and the smartphone application Tinder, posted a 12 percent increase in sales to $203.9 million. IAC is separating these businesses into their own division, called Match Group.

Excluding some costs, earnings of $1.04 a share topped the 91-cent average analyst estimate.

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