"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." -- Abraham Lincoln
That's apparently the case with WiMAX blimp dreamer GlobeTel (AMEX: GTE ) , which announced that the American Stock Exchange temporarily halted trading of shares and intends to delist its stock.
As the Fool's Seth Jayson has pointed out here, here, and here, and the Amex seemingly has finally realized, too, GlobeTel has "engaged in a pattern of issuing overly promotional press releases" while "its management has engaged in operations, which, in the opinion of the Exchange, are contrary to the public interest."
I first wrote about GlobeTel last year, pointing out that while the company touted its potential, it was way too speculative to even consider investing in. Seth dug much deeper into the story and found that GlobeTel had a history of making big promises and failing to follow through. Its mega-puffery with its Russian WiMAX deal -- one that would take it past industry leaders like Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) , Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) , and Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) -- was just the latest of its claims to take over wireless telephony that never materialized.
Despite the enablers that Seth pointed out this week, who ultimately influence unwitting investors to put their money into such untested waters, the Amex could no longer stand by idly. While GlobeTel was advised on Tuesday that it was going to be delisted, it waited until well after the close of business on Wednesday to tell the public what was happening.
There were obvious, tell-tale signals that GlobeTel was less than what it appeared on the surface. One of the most obvious was its reliance on regular, breathless press releases to drum up "news." Specious deals. Pedestrian agreements to allow use of government testing grounds. Innocuous-sounding reasons for delays or cancellations of deals. And all the while the company never produced a single breakthrough product, despite telling investors one was imminent.
Which brings up my next point: If you're going to consider investing in a company, it ought to have a product that can make it money. While the main focus of GlobeTel's press releases was its WiMAX blimps, it really earned its money as a provider of calling cards and other telephony services, but it was still losing money hand over fist, some $6 million in 2003, $13 million in 2004, and $32 million in 2005.
To stay afloat, it had to inject new money by issuing debt or stock. Cash flows provided by financing also grew exponentially as the company burned its cash, from $2 million in 2003 to more than $15 million in 2005. And all the while it comforted investors by promising the next megadeal was just around the corner. As always, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Of course, the company protests and says it will "vigorously" defend itself. But, in my opinion, there was just so long it was going to be able to go on fooling people, and an end to the charade was called for.
While we enjoy calling ourselves Fools here, there's no delight in a company trying to fool investors out of their money.