Inside the Epic Collapse That Crushed My Portfolio

Each week, I report the results of the Big Idea Portfolio, a collection of five tech stocks that I believe will crush the market over a three-year period. I've done it before; my last tussle with Mr. Market ended with me beating the index's average return by 13.35%.

Real money was on the line then as it is now, which means any one of the five stocks you see below could cause me a lot of public embarrassment. This time, Rackspace Hosting (NYSE: RAX  ) ) inflicted the most pain. Shares of the hosting provider are off more than 21% since reporting earnings last week.

Rackspace fell short on both the top and bottom lines. Revenue grew 25% to $353 million while profit improved 17% to $0.21 a share. Analysts were looking for $355.4 million and $0.22 a share, respectively. Stifel Nicolaus downgraded the stock following the report.

Is the sell-off deserved? I'm not so sure. Gross margin has improved six quarters in a row and now stands at 73%. Returns on invested capital came in 16.9% in Q4, up sharply from 15% in Q1 and within spitting distance of the 17.2% in last year's artificially inflated result.

OpenStack is an open-source toolkit for managing networked computing resources more efficiently. It's important stuff, and not just for avoiding the sorts of miscues that have seen Amazon.com suffer multiple outages in recent months. OpenStack has allowed Rackspace to introduce a variety of new cloud computing products.

Meanwhile, Rackspace is early in the process of taking advantage of another open-source movement called the Open Compute Project. Facebook is a vocal proponent of the movement, which seeks to redefine the way we think of data center hardware in order to make deploying computing power cleaner and more efficient.

At Rackspace, what OpenStack is to software, Open Compute is to hardware. Both efforts promise to help the company boost margins and returns on capital. Investors should love that. Instead, they're selling to due to a minor miss.  Bad move.

What's the Big Idea this week?
Rackspace's free fall comes on the heels of a similar sell-off at Riverbed Technology. Between them, these two stocks have given back -- wait for it -- more than 62 percentage points in gains over the past three trading weeks. Any edge I had on Mr. Market is now gone.

Indexes didn't move much. Only the small cap Russell 2000 improved meaningfully, closing the week ahead 1.04%. The S&P 500 also inched higher, up 0.12%, while the Nasdaq fell 0.06% and the Dow declined 0.08%, according to data supplied by The Wall Street Journal. Here's a closer look at where I stood through last Friday's close:

Company

Starting Price*

Recent Price

Total Return

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  )

$416.26**

$460.16

10.5%

Google

$650.09

$792.89

21.9%

Rackspace Hosting

$41.65

$59.00

41.7%

Riverbed Technology

$25.95

$15.84

(38.9%)

salesforce.com

$100.93

$175.03

73.4%

AVERAGE RETURN

--

--

21.72%

S&P 500 SPDR

$124.94**

$152.11

21.75%

DIFFERENCE

--

--

(0.03)%

Source: Yahoo! Finance. *Tracking began at market close on Jan. 6, 2012. **Adjusted for dividends and other returns of capital.

Notable newsmakers
Among the other tech stocks making news last week:

  • Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) announced plans to enter the set-top box business, challenging not only Roku but also Apple TV, the Xbox 360, and Google's various on-demand TV partners. For its part, the chip maker says it will brings thousands of developers to the effort. Or to put it another way: The revolution won't be televised. It'll be streamed.
  • Investors hoping Apple would issue a huge dividend payment or announce a massive stock buyback were disappointed when CEO Tim Cook waxed enthusiastic about retail at a Goldman Sachs conference. He says the Mac maker will spend to update 20 Apple Stores and open 30 more around the world this year.
  • Finally, Box Office Mojo revealed that Skyfall, the latest in the James Bond franchise, passed the $1.1 billion mark at the global box office. The film is the first 2-D picture to reach that level since the final installment in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings cinematic trilogy, The Return of the King. IMAX deserves some credit for the performance. Filmmakers used IMAX cameras to create wider-screen action shots available only in some premium showings. 

What caught your eye in the tech world last week? Would you buy any of these stocks? Rackspace may be having its troubles right now, but no stock has crashed as publicly as Apple lately. However, there's a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.


Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 8:06 PM, Mega wrote:

    CRM is next.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 11:10 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @MegaShort,

    Maybe, and I'd be fine if that happens.

    There's far too much runway left for Salesforce.com to give up on it. So, if it tanks after the next earnings report, I'll cover it here, shrug, and get back to the business of holding for the long haul.

    Thanks for the note and Foolish best,

    Tim

    --

    TMFMileHigh

    @milehighfool on Twitter

    http://timbeyers.me

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 6:03 PM, ejherbals wrote:

    RAX has a free cash flow issue and way over valued. This is a needed correction. Do you Fools actually talk to each other, since the other day it was highlighted as a major issue with RAX.

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