Potholes on TheStreet.com

Buckle up, investors. TheStreet.com (Nasdaq: TSCM  ) reported earnings last night, and today we're here to survey the damage. Hope you sprung for the optional side-impact airbags.

Headline news
Revenues grew a bare 4% in Q3, which represents a marked slowdown from the 38% pace TheStreet.com set in the second quarter. Meanwhile, profits ... just kidding, folks. There were no profits. Instead, the company sent $0.04 per share rolling down the gutter.

For this, CEO Thomas Clarke blamed "the revenue impact of the weakened online advertising market." That sort of rings true, but sort of doesn't. While it's true that old-line media companies like CBS (NYSE: CBS  ) and Viacom (NYSE: VIA  ) have been complaining about the ad market, it didn't seem to phase Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) earlier this month. And at TheStreet.com itself, ad revenue was actually up 18%.

Demotions.com
Instead, where the company got in trouble was with its shiny new acquisition, Promotions.com. This division, which brought in $3 million worth of loot in the second quarter on the strength of interactive ad deals signed with giants like Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) , Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) AOL, and Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) , contributed only $1 million in Q3.

Finishing up the roll call of department heads, "syndication, licensing and information services" revenues more than tripled off of its small base, but subscription revenue dropped 8% (which may bode ill for Morningstar's news later today, Morningstar having leaned more toward subscription-based revenue, while TheStreet.com chased ad revs).

Valuation
Now, at this point, I'd like nothing better than to turn on a dime, shout "Surprise!", and tell you that all this bad news has been so factored into the company's stock price that TheStreet.com is actually undervalued. Problem is, I'm not so sure that's true.

For the second quarter, if you recall, I said that based on first-half results, the company appeared to be heading for about $9 million in free cash flow by year-end, and would be cheap if it could get there. Three months closer to said "year-end," however, TheStreet.com's negative-free cash performance in Q3 shows that something on the order of $6 million now looks more likely.

Foolish takeaway
To this Fool's eye, TheStreet.com's current $110 million market cap seems a generous price for $6 million in annual cash profits at a 20% grower. But it's hardly cheap. My advice: Check out Morningstar's earnings today; there might just be better news and a better stock there.

What else has been heard on TheStreet.com lately?

Google is a Rule Breakers selection and Coca-Cola is recommended by Inside Value. Check out either service free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (2)

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.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 766231, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/22/2014 4:01:53 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement