Capital Irrelevance

Everyone makes mistakes. One of my biggest was investing in Internet Capital Group (Nasdaq: ICGE  ) back in early 2000. This so-called B2B Internet incubator has since lost 99.5% of its value, placing it in the ballpark of CMGI (Nasdaq: CMGI  ) and Safeguard Scientifics (NYSE: SFE  ) , and late-to-the-party mutual funds like Jacob Internet Fund (FUND: JAMFX  ) .

Internet Capital Group was based on the theory that its core holdings of various private technology companies could be spruced up and sent to the IPO market. Internet Capital Group would potentially be sitting on hefty assets, since it usually owned majority stakes in these firms.

That was the theory, anyway. But then the stock market tanked, the IPO market dried up, and potential became vapor. Since then, Internet Capital Group has become just another company burning cash in a desperate effort to stay alive when it should have thrown in the towel a long time ago. Now, it describes itself as being an "information technology company actively engaged in delivering software solutions and services that are designed to enhance business operations by increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and improving sales results. The Company operates through a network of Partner Companies that deliver those solutions to customers." You say "tomato." I say, "Who cares?"

Take a look at its current financials. Gross and net income drops with each subsequent year. It continues to burn cash, albeit less than before. Its CEO still gets paid a million bucks a year. It had to execute a 1-for-20 reverse stock split to stay listed.

There is some good news, I suppose, in that the company posted a positive tangible net worth last year, after a long stretch in the red.

Still, I don't see why the company doesn't just close its doors. Not one company in its portfolio has ever gone public, and although their private companies are generating some meager income, the best the company can manage in its earnings announcements is that "net loss decreased by 65%." The company had nearly $600 million in cash a few years ago. Now that number is a little over $100 million, but why should investors, or even company directors, take solace in that? Other than as fodder for speculative traders who manage to trade a quarter-million shares a day, Internet Capital Group appears terminally ill to this Fool.

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Lawrence Meyers owns a whopping six shares of Internet Capital Group but no other stocks discussed in this article.


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