Shares of AOL (NYSE: AOL ) hit a 52-week high today. Let's look at how it got here and whether clear skies are ahead.
How it got here
When we're talking about the new high, we don't need to look any further than AOL's patent sale to Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) , some of which subsequently went to Facebook (Nasdaq: FB ) , for the driver. The $1 billion patent sale came at a time when the market valued AOL at just $1.7 billion, so of course it caused the stock to skyrocket higher.
Operationally, the company's progress since being spun off from the old Time Warner is mixed, causing some consternation among investors. Recently reported first-quarter revenue fell 4% to $529.4 million but profit was up 349% to $21.1 million, or $0.22 per share. It's the third quarter in a row that bottom-line results have topped expectations.
The bounce has kept AOL from falling well behind competitors Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , Microsoft, and even Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) . Now it is AOL that is leading the pack in the last year on the stock market, leaving the rest in the dust.
The pop has been great, but from a valuation standpoint, there isn't a lot making me want to buy this stock at its new high. AOL's forward P/E is higher than Google's, Microsoft's, and Yahoo!'s. The company is seeing revenue decline, and it doesn't offer the dividend Microsoft gives investors.
Quarterly Revenue Growth
Source: Yahoo! Finance.
After selling off what CEO Tim Armstrong called "beachfront property in East Hampton," I'm not sure what value is left. The website is OK, but I would rather own Google or Microsoft in the same space and even Yahoo! looks like a better value.
AOL is still fighting a proxy battle against some shareholders, which is never a welcome distraction for a public company. After the recent pop in shares, I'm not sure the board or CEO will get the boot, but it shows that investors don't think the company is performing as well as it could.
I just can't see a great catalyst driving forward unless revenue starts growing consistently and the company is able to do something worthwhile with its newfound cash hoard.
CAPS investors don't have a lot of faith, either, giving the stock our lowest rating of one star. I'll stay away from this new high and look to competitors for more value right now.