Why is a worth buyer writing about an unprofitable web business? Mainly because value investing is about discovering dollars that trade for fifty cents; having a industry cap of less than 75% of sales, Overstock.com (OSTK) seems like it might be specifically that.
But isn’t it too risky?
The best danger in any investment could be the risk of overpaying. So, the genuine query is: what’s Overstock worth? I think it’s really worth at least $1.5 billion. With Overstock’s industry cap currently sitting around $500 million, my valuation undoubtedly seems far fetched. But, there’s only 1 method to know for certain. Let’s take apart my argument piece by piece, and see if any of my assumptions are unreasonable.
Very first Assumption: Above the next 5 several years, Overstock will neither generate truly free hard cash flow nor consume cash. In other words, its free of charge money flow margin will average 0%. Money generation in some years will exactly offset cash consumption in other years. Obviously, this assumption is unreasonable, mainly because there’s nearly no chance the cash flows will specifically offset.
That’s not an issue if it turns out Overstock does create some free cash flow more than the next five years. In that case, my assumption merely errs for the side of caution. If, nonetheless, it turns out Overstock actually consumes money over the next five several years, there’s a problem – possibly a very huge problem. So, which scenario is much more likely?
Overstock’s revenues are growing swiftly. Gross margins appear solid at 13.3% in 2004 and 14.9% above the final twelve months. Overstock’s unprofitability is the result of its marketing, basic, and administrative expenses (SG&A) which are already 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. Within the lengthy run, spending on cap ex must not exceed 3% of sales. Thinking about the business Overstock is in and the expected sales growth, the company will, much more likely than not, create some totally free cash flow more than the following five many years. Therefore, the assumption that Overstock will be money flow neutral more than the following 5 several years is not overly optimistic.
Second Assumption: More than the next five years, Overstock’s sales will grow by 15% annually. Is this an unreasonable assumption? Again, I don’t consider it’s. Really few industries are expected to grow as fast as eCommerce. Overstock’s revenue growth in 2003 and 2004 was over 100%. Inside the past year, that growth has slowed. Nevertheless, it’s even now closer to 50% than it is always to 15%. Overstock isn’t in a cyclical business. So, there’s no purpose to think existing sales are abnormally large.
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 much more visitors; it has also been climbing the ranks with the most popular web sites. Whilst it’s a long, long way from the Amazons, Yahoos, and eBays of the world (and will never reach those heights) Overstock is becoming a well known web destination. This fact was most clearly evident inside the weeks leading up to Christmas. Shoppers who visited Overstock during the holiday season obviously know it exists, and may possibly extremely well return at some other point within the year. Analysts are predicting really higher growth rates for Overstock; nonetheless, they are also recommending you market the stock. I do not put any weight in their estimates. But, for the other reasons given, I feel the assumption that Overstock will grow sales at 15% a year for the next 5 years just isn’t unreasonable.
Third Assumption: Six to ten several years from today, Overstock will have a totally free money flow margin of 3%. Ten years from today, Overstock’s free hard cash flow margin will rise to 4% and remain at that level. Now, of all the assumptions I’ve made, this a single is the most questionable. Sure, Amazon has that kind of free of charge hard cash flow margin, but Overstock isn’t Amazon, and it never will be Amazon. Overstock’s gross margins are much less than Amazon’s. In fact, Overstock’s gross margins are less than Wal – Mart’s. However, Overstock’s fixed costs will eat up a a lot smaller portion of its sales than is the case more than at Wal – Mart.
In case you compare Overstock to other online retailers, you’ll see that if Overstock does experience strong sales growth, a 3% totally free money flow margin six several years from now is not unreasonable. I assumed Overstock’s sustainable free of charge cash flow margin will be 4%. There’s a case being produced that 4% is as well high. I won’t make that case, because I don’t think in it. Remember, that 4% number comes ten several years out. That gives Overstock plenty of time to grow sales and thus reduce SG&A as a percentage of sales.
Fourth Assumption: Six to ten several years from today, Overstock will be growing sales by 12% a year; eleven to fifteen years from today, Overstock will be growing sales by 8% a year; thereafter, Overstock will grow sales by 4% a year. Let’s see what this actually means. According to these assumptions, Overstock’s sales will be as follows:
Today: $707 million
2011: $1.59 billion
2016: $2.71 billion
2021: $3.83 billion
2026: $4.66 billion
2031: $5.67 billion
2036: $6.90 billion
Seven billion dollars just isn’t an unreasonable target – when you have thirty several years to achieve it. To put that figure in perspective, Amazon.com currently has sales of about $8 billion. So, even following thirty several years, these assumptions do not lead to Overstock reaching the exact same size as today’s Amazon. Do not forget these numbers assume some inflation. For instance, if inflation averages 3% a year more than the following thirty years, Overstock’s projected $6.90 billion in sales only translates to $2.84 billion in today’s dollars. So, these assumptions only lead to a fourfold increase in Overstock’s genuine sales more than a period of thirty years. I consider that’s pretty reasonable.
In case you take these four assumptions together, you get a benefit of $1.five billion for Overstock. Today, Mr. Marketplace is offering it for $500 million – that is why I’m writing about an unprofitable internet company.
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