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realized that the multiple of revenues method had encouraged these companies to generate revenue without regard to gross, operating, or net profits The result of the revenue method was the creation of companies such as Buycom that sold products at prices below cost This was sheer madness Beginning in April 2000, the valuation of technology companies began declining rapidly For example, IWon purchased Web portal Excitecom in 2001 for $10 million In 1997, Excitecom was worth $61 billion As a comparison to their lofty status in 2000, Table 7-12 list the current P/E ratio (where it exists) for the five firms with the highest P/E ratios in the 2000 USA Today Internet 100 (now the Internet 50) As you can see, only two of the firms are still publicly traded today at P/E ratios significantly lower than in 2000; one firm, Exodus Communications, went bankrupt; and two firms were acquired at fractions of their market values just 8 years earlier
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T A B L E 7-12
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Current Status of Firms with Highest P/E Multiples in the 2000 USA Today Internet 100
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Firm Infospacecom Exodus Communications Vertical Net Covad Communications CMGI 2000 P/E 5993 634 854 922 1,228 2008 P/E 228 N/A (bankrupt) N/A (acquired for $15 million in 2007) N/A (acquired for $102 per share) 1877
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Another thing that positively affected the value of publicly traded Internet companies was the fact that they had thin floats This means that most of the company s stock was controlled by insiders, such as the management team and other employees Therefore, public investors held very little stock The result was that it did not take a lot of buying by the public to increase the share price Examples of companies that had thin floats are listed in Table 7-13 In contrast, companies with typical levels of stock held by the public include those listed in Table 7-14
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7-13
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Companies with Thin Floats, 1999
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Company eHome Amazoncom Broadcastcom eBay Yahoo! Held by Insiders 69% 65% 65% 91% 49% Public Float 31% 35% 35% 9% 51%
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T A B L E
7-14
Publicly Held Stock Levels
Company Microsoft AOL Adobe Systems Dell Computer Intuit
Source: Barron s, December 21, 1998
Held by Insiders 94% 92% 92% 92% 92%
Public Float 6% 8% 8% 8% 8%
While we correctly criticized the looniness of valuations during the Internet craze, it is important that the lesson learned be greater than a few jokes The primary lesson learned is that whether one operates in a new economy, an old economy, or a future economy, financial fundamentals, relative to profitability and valuation, will always be important because they have passed the test of time
N O T E S
1 Julie Schmidt, Apple: To Be or Not to Be Operating System Is the Question, USA Today, September 24, 1996 2 Thomas G Stemberg, Staples for Success: From Business Plan to BillionDollar Business in Just a Decade Knowledge Exchange, 1996 3 Ibid
Valuation
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Ibid Chicago Tribune, April 7, 2007 Stemberg, Staples for Success Ibid Ibid Udayan Gupta, Companies Enjoy Privacy as Need for Public Deals Ebbs, Wall Street Journal, December 17, 1995 Sperling Says Debt Crunch Could Tighten PE Purse Strings, Deal Journal, Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2007 Bill Haynes, Industry Risk Merger Professionals Bullish about Continued Availability of Debt, Global Association of Risk Professionals, July 19, 2007 Venture Capital Industry Overview, Dow Jones VentureSource Forbes, July 27, 1998, p 112 Stephanie Gruner, The Trouble with Angels, Inc, p 47 Bill Sutter, classroom presentation at Kellogg School of Management, March 10, 1999 Crain s Chicago Business, May 5, 2008, p 2 Jeanne Dugan, Will Triarc Make Snapple Crackle BusinessWeek, April 28, 1997 Chicago Sun-Times, July 7, 2008 Wall Street Journal, March 30, 1998 Forbes, June 15, 1998 Newsletter of Corporate Renewal, February 14, 2000 Tim Jones, Rich Harvests in Television s Killing Fields, Chicago Tribune, October 22, 1995 Project for Excellence in Journalism, The State of the News Media 2007 Brian Edwards and Mary Ann Sabo, A Grim Tale, Chicago Tribune, October 29, 1999, Section 6N Ibid Barron s, September 15, 1997 Crain s Chicago Business, September 27, 1999, p 57 Forbes, July 27, 1998, p 112 Jubak s Journal: Putting a Price on the Future, Forbes Ibid Robert McGough, No Earnings No Problem! Price-Sales Ratio Use Rises, Wall Street Journal, November 26, 1999, pp C1 2
32 Matt Krantz, Web Site Revenue May Not Be Cash, USA Today, September 9, 1999, p 1B 33 Matt Krantz, Vague Rules Let Net Firms Inflate Revenue, USA Today, November 22, 1999, p 1B
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