What to Watch When Zillow Group, Inc. Reports Q2 Results

By Markets Fool.com

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Image source: Zillow Group Inc.

Zillow Group Inc. (NASDAQ: Z)(NASDAQ: ZG) is set to release second-quarter 2016 results this Thursday after the market closes. With shares up more than 60% year to date on the heels of last quarter's fantastic performance, you can bet that the online real estate specialist would love for another solid showing to extend its recent gains.

So what should investors expect when Zillow's report hits the wires?

First, Zillow's guidance calls for second-quarter revenue of $203 million to $208 million, and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of $15 million to $20 million.

But we should note that Zillow warned that adjusted EBITDA would be negatively affected by legal costs of between $18 million and $20 million associated with litigation with Move.com owner News Corp. and the National Association of Realtors. However, Zillow settled that litigation in early June, agreeing to pay the plaintiffs $130 million within 14 days of the settlement without having either side admit liability, wrongdoing, or responsibility.

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While the size of that payment might seem daunting, keep in mind that Zillow shares jumped more than 5% on the news, as some industry observers had speculated that a settlement could have cost the company as much as $500 million.

Further, with this troublesome litigation now behind it, Zillow will be able to direct more resources toward improving the platforms and extending the industry leads of its four consumer-facing brands, including Zillow, Trulia, StreetEasy, and Hotpads. Recall that even after Zillow turned in results that exceeded expectations two quarters ago in February, CFO Kathleen Philips lamented at the time, "Absent this lawsuit, these financial resources could otherwise be used to support innovation and growth, or margin expansion."

Next, we can expect Zillow to break out its top line into contributions from its core marketplace business (up 23% year over year last quarter, to $169 million), which primarily includes real estate revenue (up 34% in Q1, to $152.5 million) and mortgages revenue (up 65% last quarter, to $16.5 million). Separately, Zillow's guidance told investors to expect display-segment revenue of $16 million to $17 million, down from $25.8 million in last year's second quarter.But that decline is primarily a result of Zillow's decision in 2014 to purposely de-emphasize and underinvest in display advertising in favor of both focusing on the marketplace segment and wisely improving the user experience of its sites.

Zillow also tracks revenue from its Premier Agent business, which guidance dictates should be in the range of $146 million to $148 million. Assuming Zillow meets or exceeds this range, it should represent a new company record from the $134.5 million in Premier Agent revenue it collected in Q1.To that end, Zillow saw average revenue per advertiser climb 40% year over year in Q1, to $487, including a 56% gain from Premier Agent advertisers who had been customers for at least one year. And thanks to Zillow's strategic move to focus on the highest-performing agents rather than collect business through promotions and discounts, Premier Agent advertisers who spent more than $5,000 per month increased 74% in number year over year last quarter, and 83% on a total-dollar basis.

Finally, look for any changes to Zillow's full-year guidance, which currently calls for total revenue of $825 million to $835 million -- including Premier Agent revenue of $595 million to $600 million, and display revenue of $58 million to $60 million -- and for adjusted EBITDA of $115 million to $125 million. Similar to its quarterly guidance, the latter range could be subject to reduction given any deviations caused by the costs associated with the legal settlement. But if Zillow manages to sustain its recent momentum and keep growing its core business at a healthy clip while looking forward to a future without having the overhang of litigation hold it back, I suspect the market will be in a forgiving mood this week.

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Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Zillow Group (A shares) and Zillow Group (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.