-- This article was written by Chris Nolter of The Deal.
As analysts have taken a harsh view of LinkedIn's (LNKD) value, the social media group has lost more than half of its share price since the start of the year.
The growing angst could attract attention from activists, though the dual-class stock structure that gives co-founder and Chairman Reid Hoffman a majority position would present a challenge. The recent campaign against Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc. (CCO) shows that controlling ownership positions does not necessarily prevent agitation. If LinkedIn were to test the market, its marketing and recruiting products could draw suitors such as Salesforce.com Inc. (CRM) and Oracle Corp. (ORCL).
"There are definitely some structural issues that are taking place at the company right now," Mizuho Securities USA Inc. analyst Neil Doshi said.
LinkedIn's lines of business include talent solutions, which involves hiring, learning and development related services for companies; marketing services tied to sponsored updates and ads on LinkedIn pages; premium services such as Sales Navigator, which aids sales staffs; and education video company Lynda.com, which the company acquired last year for $1.5 billion.
"They are seeing a slow down in some of their core businesses," Doshi said. The hiring business lags because it is still developing on a product for small and medium-sized business, while display advertising provides headwinds to advertising revenues.
After falling to about $110 per share on Thursday from $225 per share at the close of 2015 , Doshi suggested that the stock may finally be fairly valued.
Analysts have been scaling back their estimates in recent months. Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak slashed his target to $125 per share from $190 per share triggering a 5% drop Wednesday. Nowak set his target to 12 times 2017 Ebitda, and called the company "a platform at the crossroads of uncertainty."
Similarly, John Blackledge of Cowen & Co. recently lowered his target to $140 per share from $272 per share.
As the outlook has changed, so has the investor base.
"A lot of growth guys who were owning it are no longer in it now," Doshi said. "You're starting to get value investors who are starting to look at LinkedIn."
Companies such as Los Angeles' Capital World Investors, which disclosed a 6% stake in February 2015, have reduced their positions. The firm, which Olshan Frome Wolosky LLP included on a list of institutional investors that sometimes support activists, reduced its stake to 3.9% last month. Capital World did not respond to a call Thursday.
The shareholder with the biggest say remains LinkedIn chairman Hoffman, who controls 53.2% of the vote through his Class A and Class B shares.
"Some of these companies are trying to bolster online marketing efforts," he said. "You have a nice advertising business at LinkedIn you also have a nice [software as a service] product for recruiters as well."
LinkedIn, Salesforce.com and Oracle declined to comment.
-- This article was originally published by The Deal, a sister publication of TheStreet that offers sophisticated insight and analysis on all types of deals, from inception to integration. Click here for a free trial.