Here's the difference between simplicity and complexity. Wal-Mart's
Wal-Mart's numbers were broken down into exactly three categories: Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, and International. IAC's figures were broken down into seven distinct operating segments, some of which include several different businesses themselves.
To make matters even more complicated, IAC's extensive ongoing acquisition mishmash means that the company's standard gauge of performance is a nonstandard metric labeled operating income before amortization (OIBA). Combine that with a pair of impairment charges from its teleservices segment totaling $218 million, and IAC lost $46 million in the fourth quarter on a GAAP basis but saw earnings on an adjusted basis climb 10% to $250 million, or $0.33 per share.
Forget that. The bottom line here is that IAC generated $1.04 billion in free cash flow in 2004, on top of $1.11 billion in free cash flow in 2003.
OIBA for the year was up 19% to $1.02 billion, about half of which belongs to IAC Travel, the group of businesses that will be separated and carry the Expedia name. The hotel business has struggled to grow in the face of increasing competition from companies such as Cendant
About one-third of OIBA belongs to a couple of boring business called Ticketmaster and the Home Shopping Network (HSN), which do nothing but make money. The bulk of the rest of it is accounted for by the local and media services segment, a group that includes TripAdvisor (which will be included in Expedia following the spinoff) and Citysearch.
The stock trades at about 17 times trailing free cash flow, accounting for the dilutive effects of convertible preferred stock, options, warrants, and restricted stock.
If you think the new Expedia (IAC Travel) is worth 20 times OIBA, and that the rest of IAC is worth about 14 times OIBA, then today's price is right on the money. Bump up the value of Expedia as a viable Internet pure play to around 30 times OIBA, and the rest of IAC is just about free. But I also think there is considerable upside in the rest of IAC as an investment business: The cash flow provided by stables HSN and Ticketmaster provide considerable margin for error, as well as constant ammunition to develop and acquire new businesses.
That's on top of the fact that IAC is sitting on $3.5 billion in cash, on top of under $1.4 billion in debt.
Despite IAC's outward complexity, any downside risk is mitigated by a cheap stock and copious cash flow. The market already reacted favorably to the announcement this past December that the company would be separating its travel businesses from the rest of the company, before knocking the stock back down. I believe the actual separation event will be a catalyst in the near term, and any growth in the business will provide an excellent long-term catalyst for the stock. At about $22 per share, I think the upside is free and that InterActiveCorp represents a compelling buy.
For more on InterActiveCorp, check out:
- IAC Split Is Elegant Solution
- Expedia Flies Away
- InterActive Rebound
- InterActive and the Permanent Tax
- InterActive Complications
Fool contributor Jeff Hwang owns shares of InterActiveCorp.