May 3, 2018 / 11:33 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Blue Apron reports smaller loss as more subscribers sign up

(Compares loss with analysts' estimates, adds background on marketing spend, share price)

May 3 (Reuters) - Blue Apron reported a smaller-than-expected first-quarter loss on Thursday as the meal-kit delivery company signed up more subscribers compared with the previous quarter.

Shares of New York-based Blue Apron, which have fallen nearly 80 percent since their June 2017 market debut, rose 9.5 percent in premarket trading after the results.

Although Blue Apron has cut back drastically on marketing expenses to invest in a bigger, more automated distribution facility in New Jersey, the company increased spending on marketing in the first three months of the year than it did in the final quarter of 2017.

Blue Apron said it had 786,000 active customers in the first quarter, a 5 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2017. Average revenue per customer rose slightly quarter-over-quarter to $250.

The company's net loss narrowed to $31.7 million or 17 cents per share in the three months ended March 31, from $52.2 million or 78 cents per share a year earlier.

Analysts on average had estimated a loss of 24 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Blue Apron, which went public in late June last year, said revenue fell 20 percent year-over-year to $196.7 million, reflecting the planned reduction in marketing. Analysts had expected revenue of $197.3 million. (Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar)

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