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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.
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%.
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).
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.
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?