At The Motley Fool, we poke plenty of fun at Wall Street analysts and their endless cycle of upgrades, downgrades, and "initiating coverage at neutral." So you might think we'd be the last people to give virtual ink to such "news." And we would be -- if that were all we were doing.
But in "This Just In," we don't simply tell you what the analysts said. We'll also show you whether they know what they're talking about. To help, we've enlisted Motley Fool CAPS, our tool for rating stocks and analysts alike. With CAPS, we track the long-term performance of Wall Street's best and brightest -- and its worst and sorriest, too.
And speaking of the best ...
Two of the biggest names on Wall Street spoke out in defense of Adobe Systems
[C]oncerns over the future of Flash are overblown ... we don't need a product-cycle premium multiple for the stock to work from here." To the contrary, Adobe's Flash Internet video program "will remain a leading rich media platform" heading into the HTML 5 revolution and beyond.
And Credit Suisse concurs:
We recommend that investors capitalize on the near-term weakness in Adobe's stock-driven by investors' concerns regarding HTML 5 ... as we anticipate that Adobe's stock will trend higher over the next few months given the pending release of the next version of Creative Suite in April 2010.
Fears that "HTML 5 may eventually replace Flash as a de facto standard of the Internet" are just so much "blather," according to CS. Because whatever new lingua franca the Internet may choose, "Web authoring tools will still be required to design and create Web content, for which Creative Suite represents the most advanced, most widely used and most feature rich solution."
Are they right?
They very well may be. Both of these analysts have proven themselves skilled stockpickers, ranking in or near the top quintile of investors tracked by CAPS. Both are beating the market with their Software picks -- scoring double-digit leads over the S&P 500's performance with recommendations like Check Point Software
And to be perfectly honest, I agree with the analysts' analysis -- so far as it goes.
For those not in the know, HTML5 refers to the next iteration of the Internet's lingua franca, "HyperText Markup Language." Designed by the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group, and spearheaded by folks from both Apple
But even if HTML5 replaces Flash entirely, Jefferies believes this will have "almost zero bearing on [Adobe's] numbers over the next 18 months." Fellow Fool Rick Munarriz explained the logic last week. Peering into the future, Rick sees HTML5 as "bad news for Flash" that could "diminish Adobe's brand." But brand damage notwithstanding, Rick believes HTML5's introduction could become "a huge moneymaker for Adobe" as it drives demand for the company's paid-for Creative Suite software.
How huge is huge?
And it's here that I part ways with the analysts. Not on the fear that Adobe will catch a terminal case of HTML5-itis, wither away and die -- to the contrary, I believe HTML5 could be good for Adobe. My worry is just that it won't be good enough to justify the stock's price.
You see, lost in the whole discussion over HTML this and Creative that, is the fact that Adobe is one very pricey stock. It sells for a sky-high 45 times earnings, despite widespread belief that Adobe won't be able to grow its profits much faster than 15% per year over the next five years.
Sure, P/E doesn't tell the whole tale. Yes, Adobe generates a lot more free cash flow than it reports as net income -- but even with $1 billion in trailing free cash flow, the stock only looks fairly valued at best, based on that growth rate.
When you get right down to it, this is the reason to avoid Adobe stock today. Not out of fear that pulling the Flash card will bring Adobe's house of cards crashing down. But simply because the house in question costs too darn much.
My advice: Hope that more unreasonable pessimism will drop Adobe further. Wait for a better price.
Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft, a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Check Point Software Technologies and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. Apple and Adobe Systems are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Oracle.
Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 640 out of more than 150,000 members. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.