LivePerson Breaks Through the 14% Growth Ceiling

Shares of LivePerson (NASDAQ: LPSN) hit all-time highs on Friday after another well-received financial update. The provider of high-tech customer support solutions announced its fourth-quarter results shortly after Thursday's market close.

Revenue rose 15% during the final three months of last year, clocking in at a record $65.7 million. It's a pretty big deal, as revenue jumped 14% in each of the previous three quarterly reports. If you're going to break out of a tradition, it's always better to break to the upside. LivePerson's guidance back in November was calling for an 11% to 15% year-over-year uptick in revenue for the fourth quarter. If you're going to land within your target range, it's naturally always better to land right at the top.

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Keeping the streaks alive

LivePerson's 15% revenue lift — technically 14.5% before rounding off — is its strongest quarterly showing in more than three years, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. This is also LivePerson's fourth consecutive quarter of double-digit top-line growth, something that we also haven't seen in more than three years.

We're not done. LivePerson sees growth accelerating through 2019, and it's eyeing at least 20% growth come 2020.

The bottom line isn't holding up as nicely as the top. LivePerson posted a widening loss, but it's fueled largely by one-time charges. Adjusted operating income was positive — and improving — but guidance calls for the red ink to continue flowing into 2019.

Investors are naturally paying more attention to revenue growth than the lack of positive earnings. The market seems to accept that deficits are the right course as LivePerson invests in product development and sales costs to grow both its offerings and its client base. The stock has soared 138% since the start of last year, and it's been a seven-bagger since bottoming out three years ago.

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LivePerson's initiated guidance for the current quarter and all of 2019 is a mixed bag. The top line looks great. LivePerson sees revenue climbing 13% to 15% to land between $65.75 billion and $66.75 million in the first quarter, rising 14% to 17% in hitting $284.5 million to $291.5 million for the entire year. The path down the income statement should be another story, as reported earnings and adjusted operating income will be negative.

The positives do outweigh the negatives. LivePerson continues to sign up new accounts, lining up 124 new deals in the fourth quarter and 60 new customer contracts. It has seen sequential revenue gains for seven consecutive quarters, and even the low end of its guidance would stretch the winning streak to eight in the current period. We're far removed from the 51 consecutive quarters of sequential revenue growth that was snapped in 2015, but LivePerson's business and clearly its stock price are taking steps in the right direction again.

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Rick Munarriz has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends LivePerson. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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