It wasn't but a few weeks ago that I cringed when the opening line of an earnings release described not financial achievements but the announcement of an aggressive stock buyback plan. Apparently, communications services provider j2 Global
Below the line announcing a new share repurchase plan, j2 Global reported a 16% increase in fourth-quarter revenue to $57 million, while GAAP net earnings bumped up 14% to $17 million. The final quarter actually capped a solid year for the company -- one where revenue grew at a 22% rate, while net income did even better and grew by 29%. But revenue growth stalled late in the year as the softening economy exacted its toll on a portion of j2 Global's user base.
Actually, the impact that j2 Global is seeing from the softening economy is not very severe, but it is enough to cut the usage of certain customers significantly and put a damper on margins. It's also been significant enough to send the stock down 46% in the past six months. Management intends to take advantage of the lower price and has put in place a schedule to buy up to five million shares through 2010.
In the larger picture, a new trend may impact j2 Global's business in the long term -- flat-rate wireless pricing. Voice communications is quickly becoming a commodity as Verizon Wireless -- a joint venture between Verizon Communications
Cheap and limitless wireless voice service will accelerate the decline in landline phone services and could, in turn, drive more competitors into j2 Global's space. I wouldn't be surprised to see Vonage
In the meantime, however, j2 Global isn't too sure how 2008 will play out. Citing a volatile market, the company forecast revenue growth of 9% to 22% for the coming year, and earnings per share growing between 7% and 22%. From where the stock is today, though, most of the pessimism is already built in.
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Following a night no one wants to remember, Fool contributor Dave Mock now limits his intake of wine spritzers. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. Dave is the author of The Qualcomm Equation. j2 Global is a Hidden Gems Pay Dirt recommendation. The Fool's disclosure policy actually got to meet the Declaration of Independence once.