Why am I writing about an unprofitable internet company on a value investing blog? Because this blog is about finding dollars that trade for fifty cents; with a market cap of less than 75% of sales, Overstock.com (OSTK) looks like it may be exactly that.
But isn’t it too risky?
The greatest risk in any investment is the risk of overpaying. So, the real question is: what is Overstock worth? I think it’s worth at least $1.5 billion. With Overstock’s market cap currently sitting around $500 million, my valuation certainly looks far fetched. But, there’s only one way to know for sure. Let’s take apart my argument piece by piece, and see if any of my assumptions are unreasonable.
First Assumption: Over the next five years, Overstock will neither generate truly free cash flow nor consume cash. In other words, its free cash flow margin will average 0%. Cash generation in some years will exactly offset cash consumption in other years. Obviously, this assumption is unreasonable, because there is almost no chance the cash flows will exactly offset.
That’s not a problem if it turns out Overstock does generate some free cash flow over the next five years. In that case, my assumption simply errs on the side of caution. If, however, it turns out Overstock actually consumes cash over the next five years, there is a problem – possibly a very big problem. So, which scenario is more likely?
Overstock’s revenues are growing quickly. Gross margins look solid at 13.3% in 2004 and 14.9% over the last twelve months. Overstock’s unprofitability is the result of its selling, general, and administrative expenses (SG&A;) which have been growing exponentially. Will these expenses continue to grow? Yes, but not as fast as revenues. Over the last twelve months, Overstock’s spending on cap ex has been 5.6% of sales. That number is an aberration. In the long run, spending on cap ex should not exceed 3% of sales. Considering the business Overstock is in and the expected sales growth, the company will, more likely than not, generate some free cash flow over the next five years. Therefore, the assumption that Overstock will be cash flow neutral over the next five years is not overly optimistic.
Second Assumption: Over the next five years, Overstock’s sales will grow by 15% annually. Is this an unreasonable assumption? Again, I don’t think it is. Very few industries are expected to grow as fast as eCommerce. Overstock’s revenue growth in 2003 and 2004 was over 100%. In the past year, that growth has slowed. However, it is still closer to 50% than it is to 15%. Overstock isn’t in a cyclical business. So, there is no reason to believe current sales are abnormally high.
Also, all that spending on advertising is increasing consumers’ awareness of Overstock. A review of Overstock’s traffic data shows it has not only been gaining more visitors; it has also been climbing the ranks of the most popular web sites. …Read more