Last Monday, I detailed in A Perfect Earnings Report a model of disclosure that I seek from companies offering their quarterly results. With the exception of one thing, Overstock.com's
Look, the way I see it, the more Chairman Mao quotes you can cram into an earnings report, the better. Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne manages only one. I'm sure he'll endeavor for more next time. I'll get this out of the way: The one thing that's missing here is the cash flow statement. Particularly with companies that are unprofitable, I don't see how providing cash flows with some of their sources and uses granularity could be anything but helpful.
Go. Read the letter. Note the fact that good stuff is elucidated, bad stuff is laid out on the table, and there is none of the sepia-toned "everything is hunky-dory, except where the weather impacted results" blather that you read in so many letters to shareholders. Note also the most important part of Byrne's letter: The thing you will likely never see discussed anywhere else is the part about "constraint theory." Companies that grow rapidly simply do not bother to tell you about the challenges in prediction that this can pose. Overstock grew its core revenues 120% over last year. This means that the company had to prepare for the growth, determining in advance what facilities would scale and what ones demanded rapid, predictive investment. Had the company grown "only" 50%, some of these investments would have been wasted. On the other hand, had it only modeled for 50% growth, its top line would have been deeply impacted.
All told, the company lost $0.13 per share, or $2.3 million. GAAP revenues increased to $87.8 million from $28.8, well higher than expected. Overstock does not provide guidance, and it also went to great pains to note that because of a change in accounting policy investors ought not take this 200%-plus gain at face value. This though the outward impression (and the one reported by every other news service thus far) of better revenue gains likely would have helped the company's stock.
Overstock was an inaugural selection of the Motley Fool Hidden Gemsnewsletter, chosen last June. Its returns have been extraordinary. While the company continues to be unprofitable (overkill hint: cash flow statement would help), it has shown the ability to manage its growth in spectacular fashion.
For next quarter's quote, if nothing relevant from Mao is available, might I suggest Kierkegaard? I'm sure that would slay 'em.
For more Fool coverage on Overstock.com, read:
Bill Mann owns none of the companies mentioned in this story.