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Groupon stock forecasts for 2012: Deal or no deal?

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One of the best ways to make money off “hot” tech IPOs is by ignoring them for a year or so. By then, the market will have devoured all those overly-hyped novices who eagerly bought shares during the first week of trading, then sold them when they saw the value of their holdings crumble. That’s what appears to be happening to Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ:GRPN) right now.

And it’s a pattern that gets repeated a lot. I like to use one of the stocks I lost a lot of money on as an example: E-Commerce China Dangdang Inc. (NYSE:DANG) – the so-called “Amazon of China” (even though Amazon operates in China, too). The stock had its IPO on Dec. 10, 2010. It debuted around $32 an ounce. A year later, shares were bloodied. They plunged more than 80 percent to less than $5 a share.

If you would have bought at the start of 2011, though, you’d be quite happy with your returns. Since then, DangDang has shot up nearly 70 percent from $4.40 to $7.45. I think we’re on the verge of something similar happening with Groupon.

Shares in the daily deals site are in the long, painful process of shaking out the weak hands. The question is, when will the real institutional buyers start moving in? I would argue that the tipping point could be coming soon – particularly as a number of investment firms have started moving to upgrade the stock. Here are just a handful of the Groupon stock forecasts for 2012 that we’ve seen over the past month or so:

B. Riley & Co.: Upgrade from sell to neutral. Price target of $10.60 (per Barrons).

Evercore Partners: Upgrade from to equal weight to overweight. Price target of $15 (per Forbes).

FactSet Research: Seven buy ratings and 12 hold ratings. An aggregate price target of $21.44 (per the Wall Street Journal).

Reuters: The average price target of 25 analysts covering Groupon stands at $22.53 (per Seeking Alpha).

Even after an accounting error forced Groupon to revise revenue down $14 million last quarter, it’s hard to ignore the company’s growth profile – and the stock’s subsequently low valuation.

Indeed, Groupon’s valued at “roughly half the multiple that was reportedly offered by Google in which time Groupon tripled its quarterly revenue,” writes Ken Sena, an analyst with Evercore Partners, wrote in a recent research report. It doesn’t make sense then that the company’s more than twice the size it was at the time of offer but somehow worth just half the price.

That’s got me looking for the right time to start accumulating Groupon shares. In the words of hedge fund manager James Altucher, Groupon’s an “easy double” (per Seeking Alpha). I’d like to be there when that double happens.

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