#onlinedating | Sparks Fly for Match Group on Analyst Upgrade to Buy

Investors lit a match under Match Group (MTCH – Get Report) on Monday, with the stock rising in premarket trading after Nomura Instinet analyst Mark Kelley upgraded his recommendation on the shares and raised his 12-month price target, following in the footsteps of other analysts.

In a note to clients, Kelley upgraded the parent of online dating platforms March.com, Tinder, and OkCupid to buy from neutral and raised his price target on the stock to $88 from $81, roughly 18% higher than where the stock closed on Friday.

Shares of Match Group have been under pressure following the company’s recent disclosure in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it has received a grand jury subpoena from the Department of Justice in connection with a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit against it.

Specifically, the FTC has alleged that Match.com promoted what it knew to be fake profiles to lure potential subscribers. Match.com has been fighting back, arguing the FTC’s allegations are “meritless” and that it catches 85% of fake accounts within the first four hours after they are created.

The company and the FTC failed to reach agreement on a settlement proposal last November that would have had it make a $60 million payment, according to the filing.

Kelley’s upgrade follows other analysts who noted that Match Group users are aware of the existence of spam accounts and that the negative headlines will have only a limited impact on consumer interest in online dating, and in turn the company’s financial performance.

Evercore ISI last month raised Match Group to outperform from in-line, with a $95 price target. Meantime, Bank of America Merrill Lynch reiterated its buy rating on Match Group’s stock with a $102 price target.

Shares of Match Group were up 3.72% at $77.20 in premarket trading on Monday.

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