For the full year, revenues climbed 10.6% to $964 million. The net loss of $0.05 per share shows an improvement over 2002's red ink of $0.16 per share. So why am I looking so grave and asking WebMD to turn its head and cough? The symptoms include government investigations, cash provided by financing and, what I perceive through my stethoscope to be, a lack of focus.
The Feds have asked WebMD to open up and say, "ahhh." Both the Justice Department and the SEC are investigating WebMD's books, suspecting there may be funny business related to one of the firm's predecessor companies. But this may be the least of its worries.
WebMD's health care services systems provide the bulk of sales these days, but they battle in a competitive field populated with firms such as McKesson
And despite some good gains in revenue, WebMD has an appetite for more cash than it can generate. Yesterday, the firm announced a private placement of $100 million in convertible shares sold to CalPERS. The latest balance sheets show our patient continuing to cough up large quantities of common stock and convertible debt.
Also worrisome is the company's acquisition-based growth strategy. The CalPERS announcement hinted strongly that the incoming funds might be used for more shopping. This would come on top of nearly three dozen purchases in recent years. I drew some flack lately when I criticizedChinadotcom's
No, acquisitions don't always mean deworsification, as Peter Lynch dubbed it. But when companies going through big upheavals are constantly looking outside for revenue generators, you ought to ponder whether your investment dollars might not better off out there, too, perhaps in one of those prospective acquisition targets.