What's in a name? A company by any other name would still sell on Wall Street. Shakespeare may not translate too well into modern life, but there is definitely drama to be found in the war between the longs and the shorts over j2 Global Communications
Known as JFAX.com till November 2000, j2 Global is best known for providing subscribers with a local phone number allowing them to receive faxes in their email and send faxes from their PC. It offers both free and paid subscriptions, with this quarter's more than 1 million new subscribers leading to a subscriber base of 6 million.
To the shorts, this is where the story ends. They see j2 Global as a company that has carved a cozy niche for itself in the fax-to-email market, one that will be snatched away once the telecommunications giants develop their own alternatives. Shorts are betting on j2 Global being unable to grow out of the declining fax market, to the tune of 25% short interest (as of June). To them the company may as well be called by its previous name.
The longs prefer to think of the company by its new name. They will point to j2 Global's worldwide network encompassing more than 1,300 cities in 20 countries. The company also has a new patent for a service capable of messaging via telephone, fax, pager, or VoIP (voice over Internet protocol). Thus, the longs see j2 Global as a growing player in the unified messaging industry, which the Telecommunications Industry Association has projected to be $3.5 billion by 2005.
The numbers are on the side of the longs, too. Yesterday's second-quarter report marks the ninth consecutive quarter of positive earnings. Pretax earnings grew 82% compared with the same quarter last year. The company has little debt and close to $70 million in free cash flow to fund growth. j2 Global definitely has solid fundamentals.
However, in the long run it will come down to whether j2 Global can grow beyond its JFAX.com origins and become a bona fide player in the unified messaging market. While investors averse to risk may want to sit on the sidelines until the victor is more apparent, this is definitely a stock to keep an eye on.
Want to read more about j2 Global? Check out:
- j2 Global Looks Undervalued, by Jeff Fischer
- j2's Talk Is Cheap, by Seth Jayson
- Is j2's Punishment Justified?, by Seth Jayson
Fool contributor Tim Goh does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned.