It's tough to be too excited about the latest results from Blackboard
For the quarter, Blackboard lost $0.17 per share, which looks a lot worse than the $0.25 it earned the prior-year quarter. Much of that uninspiring performance is owed to continued costs of integrating former-competitor WebCT. Blackboard management prefers to direct us toward its "non-GAAP cash net income" of $0.02 per share, which it arrives at by adding back the amortization of acquired intangibles, stock-based compensation expense, and associated taxes.
Fair enough, I suppose, as is management's remark that these results were, in fact, better than the guidance it had provided earlier in the year. I'm not sure just how much I want to applaud a company for jumping over a bar it set itself, but that doesn't mean I'm sour on the shares, either.
Swallowing your largest competitor whole, plus developing new products, plus trying to sell new clients on your education enterprise systems while at the same time keeping existing customers happy enough to put up a 90% renewal rate . that's a lot of plates to keep spinning at once. For what it's worth, Blackboard now believes it can end the year a "non-GAAP cash net income" of $0.21 to $0.23 per share.
This investor remains relatively unconcerned with the numbers, for now, unless they appear to show cracks in the core -- and they don't. Blackboard continues to sign on new institutions and persuade existing customers to move up to its premium offerings. Looking out into the future, it's difficult for me to imagine many schools not wanting to use a robust education enterprise system -- and Blackboard is the leader in the space. That doesn't mean I think we're looking at the next Microsoft
For investors wanting to know whether now is a good time to heed the chalk on the slate, it's not the easiest decision to make. Blackboard won't be out of the woods with integration costs any time soon, and new product rollouts will take some time to bear fruit. For my part, I've built a rough model to try to arrive at a price tag by applying a conservative free-cash-flow margin to trailing sales and then working up some growth scenarios. I think the shares are currently worth about $32 each, but maybe as much as $40. It all depends on what you assume.
Either way, I don't think fans of this Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick will be too disappointed. If you believe the lower number, Mr. Market is often happy to oblige you with a blackboard fire sale.
Looking for other underappreciated small caps? A free trial to Hidden Gems is just a click away.
At the time of publication, Seth Jayson was long Blackboard common, as well as Microsoft common and calls. He had no positions in any other company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. See what he's Digging these days. Fool rules are here.