Shares of email security expert Zix (Nasdaq: ZIXI ) are soaring today after a strong third-quarter earnings report. Over the last year, the stock has returned more than 80% to happy shareholders, easily beating the market. It's a micro-business in the grand scheme of things, as 15% revenue growth year over year added up to just $9.0 million.
All around Zix, the competition is getting auctioned off to big-name IT powerhouses: IronPort now belongs to Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) , McAfee (NYSE: MFE ) bought Secure Computing before in turn being swallowed by Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) , EMC (NYSE: EMC ) is the proud owner of rival Authentica, and so on. You would think that in this environment, a nice little performer like Zix would be a quick and tasty snack for whoever is still hungry in the email security sector, but then you haven't seen the whole picture.
After that run-up, Zix now sports a $240 million market cap. That's 65 times trailing earnings and 28 times forward estimates, not to mention 40 times trailing free cash flows. Ten percent of the float was sold short at the end of September, and our CAPS investors have lots of angry things to say about management. It is, in fact, hard to find a technology company less liked by our CAPS players -- only 70% of the 727 players with an opinion like the company's chances to outperform the market. In addition, Zix is kind of a one-trick pony (and proud of it), effectively selling nothing but email encryption while the competition tends to heap value-added services on top of their equivalents.
With a trunk full of baggage like that, I find it hard to believe that any of the tech titans yet to show up at the security party would feel inclined to pay more than $200 million for Zix. If you bought this stock as buyout bait, I'm pretty sure you can find better bait elsewhere.