How High Can AOL Fly?

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.

AOL Chart

AOL data by YCharts

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.

Company

Price/Sales

Quarterly Revenue Growth

Dividend Yield

Forward P/E

AOL 1.2 (4.0%) N/A 32.6
Google 4.9 24.1% N/A 11.7
Microsoft 3.3 6.0% 2.6% 9.6
Yahoo! 3.8 0.6% N/A 13.8

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.

What's next?
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.

Interested in reading more about AOL? Click here to add it to My Watchlist, and My Watchlist will find all of our Foolish analysis on this stock.

Fool contributor Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Microsoft. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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