Zynga losing $150 on every paid customer - Analyst

Sterne Agee firm consultant says casual gamemaker spent more in last nine months to acquire customers than it made from them.

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Casual gamemaker Zynga went public in December, but its stock price quickly lost its financial footing, dipping significantly from an initial offering price of $10 per share to a present valuation of $9.02 as of press time. Now, one analyst has offered a new, not-so-rosy, take on the financial situation of the company.

Zynga is seeing red, according to Bhatia.
Zynga is seeing red, according to Bhatia.

Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia recently told Benzinga that he believes Zynga is losing $150 on every paying customer it attracts to its business.

"They've given us the sales in marketing dollars for the first nine months: $120 million," he said. "Almost all of that is for acquiring customers. We also know that they had 3.4 million unique payers in the September quarter, which is up from 3 million at the end of December 2010. In other words, they added 400,000 additional payers and they spent $120 million to acquire them."

This math--$120 million divided by 400,000--equals $300 per person. And Bhatia estimates these users are spending about $150 throughout their relationship with Zynga.

"Our concern is [whether or not it's worth] spending $300 to get these customers when people are spending $150. That math won't work for very long," he said.

Bhatia admitted "That's our math; that's not what the company says," but he does see a "slowdown in social gaming in general" not limited exclusively to Zynga.

"I don't think it's just Zynga," he said. "But Zynga clearly has tried many games, and they're finding that the interest level isn't necessarily going up. We've seen many games launch and then fade within a few weeks."

Bhatia's financial appraisal of Zynga may be bleak, but not all analysts agree. Last month, Wedbush and Lazard Capital Markets consultants expressed bullish predictions for the company moving forward.

For more on Zynga, check out GameSpot's previous coverage of the mobile game company.

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