Bubble Bursting 2.0: Coming To A Dot-Com Stock Near You

By now you probably know the poster children for the bursting of the 2012 Internet bubble:

Facebook (FB) IPO price: $38.00, Current quote $21.75 (down 43%)

Zynga (ZNGA) IPO price: $10.00, Current quote: $2.95 (down 70%)

Groupon (GRPN) IPO price: $20.00, Current quote: $6.66 (down 67%)

And as was the case in 2000, we are seeing violent selling in most any Internet company that reports a less-than-impressive quarter as a public company. We are also likely to get a repeat scenario in terms of bargain basement prices, for a time anyway, even on those companies who are able to survive and grow with a profitable business model. I think it is time to start monitoring these dot-com IPOs in search of those that might be written off prematurely. After all, unlike the late 1990’s, many of these companies do make a profit. The issue today is more that they don’t always make enough to justify multi-billion dollar stock market valuations.

Today’s disaster du jour is CafePress (PRSS), a profitable e-commerce site that has been around since, you guessed it, 1999. CafePress, which projects 2012 revenue of more than $200 million, went public in late March at $19 per share, giving it a market value at the time of about $325 million. In today’s trading the stock is falling by nearly $6, or 42%, to a new low of under $8 per share. Loss since the IPO: 58%.

So why bring up CafePress? I think it is the kind of company (a viable, profitable, and growing Internet operation) that might fall into that “written off way too early” category as the air continues to flee from the 2012 Internet company bubble. Granted, I have only spent an hour or so looking at CafePress specifically, so this is by no means a huge ringing endorsement yet, but it is the kind of stock I think warrants a closer look.

Even with reduced financial guidance for 2012 (the reason for today’s steep stock price decline), CafePress is predicting more than $20 million in EBITDA on more than $200 million in sales this year. With sales growing by about 20%, coupled with an 11% cash flow margin, PRSS is certainly a viable company. And yet, at under $8 per share, the stock price is indicating otherwise. The market value is now down to $135 million. PRSS has $60 million in cash on the balance sheet, so at current prices Wall Street is saying that the CafePress operating business is worth just $75 million, or 3 times EBITDA. That is the kind of valuation that Wall Street normally reserves for companies in a steep decline. As a value investor, numbers like these can’t help but get my attention.

Comments on the Internet stocks in general, or CafePress specifically, are always welcomed.

Full Disclosure: No positions in the stocks mentioned at the time of writing, but positions may change at any time

Chipotle: A Lesson in High P/E Investing

Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) are falling more than 90 dollars today after reporting second quarter earnings last night. Revenue rose 21%, with earnings soaring 61%, beating estimates of $2.30 per share by an impressive 26 cents. However, light sales figures (same store sales of 8% versus expectations of double digits) are causing a huge sell-off today. This is a perfect example of what can go wrong when investors rush into stocks that are very expensive relative to their overall profitability. Any hiccup results in a violent decline. And this really isn’t a hiccup except relative to lofty expectations. If you simply read the press release and ignored the analyst estimates, you would conclude the company is absolutely printing money at its restaurants. Unit-level margins approaching 30% are pretty much unheard of in the industry.

The problem is that prior to today’s drop, CMG stock traded for a stunning 59 times trailing earnings. Even using this year’s projections gets you to a P/E of 45x, more than 3x the S&P 500 multiple. Even a meaningful earnings beat can’t help investors with the bar set so high. Today could very well be a buying opportunity if one believes in the long term growth story at CMG, however, with the P/E still sitting around 34 on 2012 earnings, it is definitely not cheap enough for value investors to get interested.


Full Disclosure: No position in CMG at the time of writing, but positions may change at any time

Values Abound in Enterprise Computing

With the European recession beginning to impact earnings guidance for U.S. companies in recent weeks, one of the sectors to really get hammered is enterprise-focused technology. While second quarter profit reports and forward guidance will likely be unimpressive this month, some of the current valuations on Wall Street make little sense even in that scenario. As a result, I would expect strategic mergers and private equity buyers to begin looking at some of these companies.

There are far too many ideas to list here, or buy for clients, so I will just point to one that looks intriguing; enterprise collaboration hardware maker Polycom (PLCM). Polycom earned $1.18 per share last year, but weakening demand has pushed forecasts for 2012 down to just $0.89 which has crushed the stock from $32 a year ago to a recent quote of just $9 per share. What really bulks up the bullish case for the stock is that Polycom has no debt and a whopping $600 million of cash in the bank, which equates to about $3.50 per share in net cash. Investors are getting the business for only $6 per share, or 5 times trailing earnings.

With such a pristine balance sheet, the odds of Polycom being acquired rises materially relative to the average hardware company. It would be a logical target for a Cisco, HP, or Dell, all of which are companies that either compete with PLCM or are looking to expand their product offerings to enterprise customers. Even without a deal, the stock should likely command at least a market multiple, which would put fair value in the high teens inclusive of cash. This is just one of many enterprise computing companies that have been decimated in recent months, which make them very attractive in my view.

Full Disclosure: Clients of Peridot Capital own shares of Polycom at the time of writing, but positions may change at any time.