Yesterday afternoon, traders signaled approval for the Federal Reserve's June monetary policy meeting statement and Chairwoman Janet Yellen's press conference performance, and that sentiment appears to be carrying through today. As of 12:25 p.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) and the broader S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) were up 1.2%% and 1.1% respectively, while the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose by 1.5%.
The central bank indicated that regardless of when it implements the first interest rate increase, the subsequent "lift-off path" should be extremely gradual.
There is no reason for genuine investors to reposition their portfolios on this basis. While the Fed's elucubrations and contortions are critical to asset prices in the short term, they have a limited impact on business values over an equity-appropriate time frame (five years, at a very minimum). Investors: leave the rate prognostications to economists and traders! The best way to do this is focus on businesses, and fitness-device maker Fitbit's (NYSE:FIT)nitial public offering today is a fine opportunity to do just that.
Shares of Fitbit are surging more than 50% in the secondary market on their first day of trading, even though underwriters increased the size and price of the offering twice, finally settling on $20 per share (which values the company at $4.1 billion). This isn't altogether unexpected, given the pent-up demand for technology offerings -- according to data from Dealogic cited in the Financial Times, only 11 technology companies have gone public so far this year, raising $2.9 billion, down by more than two-thirds from the same point of 2014.
Multiple billion dollar-plus technology companies are opting to remain unlisted longer, relying instead on private funding rounds for growth capital. (Ride-sharing service Uber, which has already achieved a private market valuation of $40 billion, is perhaps the most prominent example of this.)
Furthermore, Fitbit, which sells six-fitness tracking devices that measure users' physiological functions and activity (sleep, heart rate, steps taken, speed, etc.), is the first pure play on the booming field of fitness technology. It has enjoyed stunning growth, with revenue jumping nearly tenfold from 2012 to 2014, to $745 million. Better yet, the business is no money pit: Last year almost marked its first profitable year; in fact, the company displayed a gross margin of 48% -- similar to that of GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO), at 45%, and superior to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL). That level of insolent profitability will naturally attract competition -- in fact, health and fitness-tracking capabilities are part of the recently launched Apple Watch.
Fitbit itself explained in its offering prospectus that "many of our competitors and potential competitors have significant competitive advantages, including ... [the] ability to leverage their sales efforts and marketing expenditures across a broader portfolio of products and services ... greater brand recognition, ability to leverage app stores which they may operate..." The reference to app stores is clear: Fitbit is going up against heavyweights Apple and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)
At $30 per share, Fitbit is valued at $6.15 billion, or 36 times net income for the trailing 12-months to March 31. That certainly looks rich, but shares of its nearest comparable, GoPro, are trading at 65 times trailing earnings. Although Fitbit says its devices are the "core of our platform," the key to continued success will be the company's ability to lock users into a niche ecosystem through applications and a dedicated platform -- the GoPro "beyond hardware" strategy. If it can pull this off -- a legitimate challenge, given its competition -- the current valuation will look reasonable, in retrospect.