Last night's quarterly report shows that the company behind the RealPlayer media-streaming application, the RealArcade casual games site, and the Rhapsody music subscription service is growing nicely, but still barely profitable.
Revenue soared 25% to $156.9 million in the fourth quarter, though a chunk of that came from the company's recent acquisition of South Korean ringtone specialist WiderThan. Earnings per share fell to $0.02 a share, but the $0.22 a share it earned a year ago was mostly the handiwork of a favorable antitrust settlement against Mr. Softy.
The future? Eh. RealNetworks is looking to post a small loss in 2008, with the top line inching ahead by somewhere between 8% and 11%.
RealNetworks is still fumbling for a high-margin model that the market can get behind. The company has plenty of friends in high places, having teamed up with Viacom
You're still sitting down, aren't you?
That's the problem with RealNetworks. It's hard to get excited about a company that relies more on interest income than operating income to turn a profit. Sure, it's great to see a company that has more than $3 a share in cash trading for less than twice that sum, but where's the pizzazz? Nobody wants to buy into a risk-laden money market fund.
The company put $350 million of its greenbacks to work a year ago with the WiderThan deal, but now that we enter 2008 on an apples-to-apples basis, even the hot ringtone market feels uninspiring.
Sooner or later, RealNetworks will have to take a stand. It'll have to make a material acquisition of a high-margin new-media upstart, or radically restructure its operations to make its current moving parts more profitable.
Move the needle for a change, RealNetworks. Please.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz doesn't have the urge to sign up for a digital music subscription service, though he loves his music enough to subscribe to satellite radio. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.