Limelight's Sweet Deal

Editor's note: A previous version of this article contained an incorrect figure for Internap's EV/sales multiple. The correct multiple is 3.1. The Fool regrets the error.

Back in July, Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) agreed to purchase 39.6 million preferred shares of Limelight Networks (NYSE: LLNW  ) . Then, late last week, Limelight went public and its shares skyrocketed 48%. Not only did Goldman pick up a nice fee on the deal, but the firm's equity stake is also worth a cool $670 million. It may seem kind of crazy, but Limelight's business is certainly growing at a stunning rate.

Limelight Networks is a content delivery network (CDN) that includes a global system of more than 4,000 servers and more than 700 broadband providers. There is even a dedicated optical backbone that allows for connections of up to 10 gigabits per second. The architecture is built to deal with the complexities of multimedia content like Adobe's (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) Flash, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows Media, Apple's (Nasdaq: APPL  ) QuickTime, and so on.

Limelight has about 800 customers. Some of the biggies include Viacom, Facebook, MySpace.com, and Microsoft's Xbox.

The tsunami in Internet data has ignited Limelight's revenue ramp. Revenues doubled in 2005 and then tripled in 2006. Because of the need to scale operations, however, the company is losing money. For fiscal Q1, revenues were $22.8 million and there was a net loss of $4.4 million.

Limelight has myriad competitors like Internap (Nasdaq: INAP  ) , BitGravity, Panther Express, and BitTorrent. But its main rival is the formidable Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation Akamai Technologies (Nasdaq: AKAM  ) .  

To blunt things, Akamai has filed a patent infringement suit against Limelight. But with the trial expected next year, it's really not a big issue for trigger-happy IPO investors.

Limelight's enterprise value-to-sales multiple is around 20. It looks frothy, especially when compared with Internap's 3.1. However, it's much closer its main rival, Akamai, which carries a multiple of 15. Still, these companies have seen lots of volatility over the past year, and that's likely to be the case with Limelight as well. So for Foolish investors, it's a good idea to be cautious.

Further Foolishness:

Fool contributor Tom Taulli, author of The Complete M&A Handbook, does not own shares of companies mentioned in this article. He is currently ranked 1,161 out of 29,574 in Motley Fool CAPS.


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