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Analysts slash targets after Zynga warns of loss

The corporate logo of Zynga Inc, the social network game development company, is shown at its headquarters in San Francisco, California in this file photo taken April 26, 2012.

ROBERT GALBRAITH/REUTERS

Brokerages lowered their price targets on Zynga Inc's stock by up to 40 per cent after the "Farmville" game maker slashed its 2012 outlook for the second time due to a decline in the number of paying customers.

The company's shares fell almost 12 per cent on Friday, closing at $2.48 (U.S.) – a fraction of the $15.91 high they touched in March.

Shares of Facebook Inc, which derives over a tenth of its revenue from fees paid by Zynga, also fell 4.7 per cent to $20.91.

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The game maker gets most of its revenue from titles that are played on PCs using Facebook's social gaming platform. Its games "FarmVille", "FrontierVille", "Zynga Poker", "Mafia Wars" and "CityVille" accounted for 83 per cent of the total revenue last year.

In July, it reported a sharp fall in second-quarter revenue as it struggled to retain users on Facebook.

The percentage of paying users continues to decline as greater variety of games became available for free on Facebook, Macquarie Equities Research analyst Michael Pachter said.

The company has also been hit by delays in its game pipeline as older titles fade and it has struggled to come up with new hits for mobile devices.

Zynga said on Thursday it was still struggling to stem user flight from Facebook games like "CityVille" and "FarmVille".

"Modest user churn and engagement erosion likely accelerated during the spring and has continued to-date," Piper Jaffray & Co analyst Michael Olson said.

The company will continue to struggle because of newer titles overtaking older and more successful games and lower revenue generation rates for its mobile games, Needham & Co analyst Sean McGowan said.

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Zynga's popular mobile titles such as "Words With Friends" and "Draw Something" generate less revenue and profit for the company, Stifel Nicolaus analyst Jordan Rohan said in a note.

During the third-quarter, Zynga was hit by charge of $85-million to $95-million related to its $182-million acquisition of OMGPOP, a New York game studio. The studio failed to replicate the success of "Draw Something", its main hit.ž Macquarie Equities Research cut its price target on Zynga stock to $2.50 from $3.50. Wedbush Securities slashed its price target to $4.00 from $7.00 and Evercore Partners cut its target to $1.70 from $2.00. Other brokerages too lowered their price targets to about $3.00.

The San Francisco, California-based company, which went public with much fanfare in December, has since lost three quarters of its market value.

Though the company's new web-based games such as "The Ville", "ChefVille" and "FarmVille 2", began well, growth tailed off after hitting about 7 million daily active users, BMO Capital Markets analyst Edward Williams said in a note.

Several of its top executives including Chief Operating Officer John Schappert and Chief Creative Officer Mike Verdu have quit the company since August.

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