iMergent: A New Sin Stock?

For all the controversy surrounding iMergent's (AMEX: IIG  ) business practices, this e-commerce specialist remains a moneymaker.

Witness yesterday's fourth-quarter earnings report. Net revenue rose 57%. Per-share net income more than doubled. And net dollar volume of contracts written -- an unconventional metric intended to show how iMergent collects money up front -- improved by 47%.

For the full year, iMergent reported a 130% increase in net income, after an accounting adjustment. Net dollar volume of contracts, meanwhile, rose 66% over 2006's total.

Executives credited greater success in establishing seminars through which teams sell StoresOnline Pro, a suite of software tools for creating websites. iMergent held 333 seminars during the quarter, drawing an average of 95 prospects. That's a 34% increase over 2006.

Impressive though that may be, it's nowhere near the killer stat. This is: Roughly one-third of those attending iMergent's workshops spent $5,200 for the right to establish between three and six e-commerce sites using StoresOnline Pro. Who says the days of dot-com are dead?

Nevertheless, investors seem uninterested. Shares of iMergent had dropped almost 3% as of this morning. Perhaps competition is the worry. There are plenty of options to sell products through auction websites like eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) or Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) WebStore -- which provides a similar product for a fraction of the start-up costs. Plenty of other firms, including Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) , Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) offer e-commerce services to small businesses. Microsoft even happens to be an iMergent partner, via its adCenter service.

It's more likely, though, that investors are nervous about the company's slowing growth and outsized legal risks. Since 2005, iMergent has grown compounded annualized revenue by roughly 57% a year. No longer. CEO Don Danks said yesterday that investors should expect 15% to 20% growth in fiscal 2008.

Then there are the legal tussles taking place in North Carolina and California. Right now, iMergent is being prevented from doing business in either state. That's bad news, since the Tar Heel State and the Golden State collectively accounted for 14% of the company's $151.6 million in fiscal 2007 revenue.

For its part, iMergent is contesting both rulings, and executives appear to be convinced that they'll prevail. Investors had better hope they're right. If not, the good times iMergent enjoyed in Q4 could soon be a distant memory.

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