ValueClick (VCLK) – Part 3 – Business Issues

The table below represents the company’s growth over the years:




















-2000200120022003200420052006 2007(E)2008(P)
Revenue (Millions)56.744.862.592.5169.2304 545.6650750
Earnings (Millions)(55.6)(7.2)(10.5)9.887.940.662.67590
Shares Outstanding (Millions)323773.774.38490100100100
Earnings/Share(1.72)(0.2)(0.14)0.131.050.450.620.750.9




The revenue growth of ValueClick for the most part reflects the revenue of the companies acquired as opposed to organic growth. However 2006 and 2007 saw organic revenue growth as the company benefited from expanding into Europe. Also worth mention is the synergy achieved through the integration of display ad network and comparison-shopping products. Revenue and Earnings are expected to grow at around the 20% range going forward.

ValueClick is currently priced at 30 times next year’s projected earnings. With an expected earnings growth of 20% the PEG ratio comes in at well above 1, making it a rich valuation. The shares also experience volatility on constant rumors about ValueClick getting acquired.

The current two-way split-up of the Internet ad inventory between the search engines and the display ad networks will soon see an overhaul with the arrival of the social media websites. Facebook and My Space along with other social media sites pose significant threats to the company’s display ad network business. Facebook’s flyer ads base behavioral targeting on the information volunteered by users as opposed to ValueClick’s model of concluding user interest based on online behavior. My Space also uses a similar strategy. Eventually, as the social media networks mature, the ad inventory will get split among search engines, social media, and display ad networks with the latter getting more headwinds.

The fact that Social Media is only in infancy with ideas still being developed into viable business models should be a cause for concern. The competitive landscape still in the works makes it difficult to gauge the full extent of this risk. Nevertheless, the overall advertiser inventory and the long tail of the Internet should continue to grow. ValueClick’s niche in serving this segment should hold steady moving forward.

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) investigation into ValueClick’s lead generation business is a considerable risk factor. The immediate problem of decling revenue due to advertisers shying away from lead generation may already be factored in the share price. ValueClick did experience a precipitous price drop after 2nd quarter results came in below expectations. The investigation will help determine whether the company violated the CAN-SPAM act in its lead generation business. CAN-SPAM deals with rules that prohibit businesses from sending unwanted email messages to wireless devices. It has been noted that nearly one-third of ValueClick’s revenue may be tied to aggressive marketing that violates FTC guidelines. Regulation of the industry that results in negative growth in the lead generation business is the worst-case scenario.

Given the valuation, steady growth expectations in the company’s niche display ad market, and the prospects of developing the comparison shopping sites into significant retail ad revenue drivers, ValueClick should provide average returns in the long term.


ValueClick Analysis:
  1. Part 1 - Accretive Acquisitions Driving Growth.
  2. Part 2 - Developing Synergy Among Different Businesses.
  3. Part 3 - Business Issues.

Our Small Cap Investing History – A Story Of Missed Opportunities

Here is a look at our small cap investing over the years:




































StockBuy DateBuy PriceSell DateSell Price Current Price/Status Comments
Oravax (ORVX)9/18/199514.59/29/19972.2N/A The company constantly released promising press releases about oral vaccine progress, with very little substance. Eventually, got acquired by Peptide Therapeutics for about $1.5/share in 1999. Holding on would have resulted in more negative returns.
Mesa airlines (MESA)9/18/199510.99/29/19975.755.05 Smaller airline touted to have competitive advantage on express routes. Holding on would have resulted in about 20% more losses over the last 10 years.
Novacare (NOVA)9/18/19958.054/2/199814.4N/ARenamed as Nahc, inc. Acquired by J.L.Halsey corporation for roughly $0.01/share around 2/2002. The vision of Novacare was to consolidate & integrate rehabilitation services in America. The company lost its bearings along the way with unfocused acquisitions and questionable deals. Holding on would have resulted in losing all our original investment. Amazingly it would have been a phenomenal investment if shares of JLHY were purchased around the 2002 timeframe (see JLHY historical chart) after the acquisition.
En Pointe Technologies (ENPT)12/29/19988.71/5/1999 5.653.05En Pointe Technologies is in the low margin computer equipment distribution business. Holding on would have resulted in more than 50% further losses over the next 8 years.
At Home Networks (ATHM)1/12/19997.51/21/19996N/AThe goal was to gain market share as fast as possible in the cable ISP business. The main problem was not having ownership interest in the cable lines themselves. Bankrupt end of 2001. Holding on would have resulted in losing all our initial investment.
Gigamedia (GIGM) 5/15/20030.936/6/20031.0222Gigamedia is based in Taiwan and is in the high growth subscription based online gaming business. It owns gaming portals in Taiwan, Hong Kong, & China and has plans to expand into Japan. Holding on would have resulted in a phenomenal return of over 2300% on our initial investment over a period of 3 years.
Dryships (DRYS)9/20/200516.511/29/200513122Dry Bulk carrier whose prospects are closely tied to Baltic Exchange Dry Index (BDI) rates because of the strategy of preferring spot charter market to longer term fixed price contracts. Holding on would have resulted in a 700% return of investment over the last 2 years.
CytRx Corporation (CYTR)9/7/20061.59/21/20061.734.29ALS drug trial in Phase II studies is the company’s major product candidate. Holding on would have resulted in us more than doubling our initial investment over the last year.
Local.com (LOCM)8/10/20075.479/17/20076.095.84Local search company with a free 411 service patent and another in the location based search area. Click to see our analysis of Local.com. Let us see what happens with this one.




  • We also realized substantial losses following the bubble in the 2000-2002 timeframe on a number of technology stocks: ASKJ, HNCS, REDB, ARBA, EMS, ADAP, CLGN, CMGI, ICGE, SUNW, INKT, SDLI, PMCS, JDSU, VRSN, AETH, EXTR, CMRC, ABI, ITWO, REDB, REDF, ONIS, etc. You name it, we owned it!
  • 2003-2004 we also traded KRY & SCOX profitably through a number of very short-term transactions. KRY would have been a decent investment to hold on to. And, SCOX declared bankruptcy recently. A mixed bag!

Stock selection in the small cap area in the 1995-2002 were largely non-starters, given that holding on to them instead of selling would have resulted in more negative returns in all cases. Since 2002, our stock selection seems to have improved, given many of the stocks have since returned very well, unfortunately after we sold.

ValueClick (VCLK) – Part 2 – Developing Synergy Among Different Businesses

Since ValueClick’s inception, the intent was to cater to the long tail of the Internet. The CPC model was introduced at low rates to sell unsold inventory on publisher’s websites. This proved to be a compelling business proposition for publishers as otherwise the inventory would remain unsold. Advertisers on their part appreciated the value in having to pay only if the user clicks (performance based model) as opposed to having to pay per the number of impressions served (CPM). The company’s display ad network was born out of this harmonious concept.

A number of value-added initiatives were added to the company’s core expertise in display ad network over the years including Display Ad Media, Lead Generation (email & vertical sites), and Comparison Shopping sites. En masse they represent the ValueClick media business unit, which generates more than 70% of ValueClick’s revenue.

The core display ad network does have one major issue looming regarding the viability and sustainability of growth going forward. As individual publisher websites gain popularity, they tend to manage their own ad management rather than continuing with the Display Ad Media product from ValueClick. Hence the business growth depends on an ever-expanding long tail. This limitation will cause the business to run into a brick wall sooner than later.

ValueClick’s acquisitions indicate their due diligence in adding value to their network to mitigate the risks associated with the viability of long-term growth. Reach attained in the number of unique users is the standard performance measure for this business niche. ValueClick is #2 behind Time Warner’s Advertising.com by this measure. This ranking and the vast inventory of available ad impressions along with the recent foray into behavioral targeting positions the company to provide advertisers with a very flexible system. Signing up and holding on to bigger accounts (publishers) is a tougher hurdle. Efforts to retain such customers include providing them with a portfolio of services such as flexible options in video, co-registration, and cost-per-action, promotional and cost-per-sale.

The Be Free and Commission Junction acquisitions are representative of the company’s effort in securing more of the ad market from the rear of the long tail of the Internet – a very large number of very low volume publishers. These businesses have shown good organic growth recently. The success of those acquisitions can be attributed to management anticipating the exponential number of small publishers that came online in the last few years. A significant number of these publishers signed up for advertising from affiliated marketing partners.

Another focus area in ValueClick’s acquisitions has been in expanding their presence in the Display Ad Serving value chain. The Webclients acquisition represents the company’s entry into the publishing space primarily to generate leads. A relatively small capital was also committed to garner an eCommerce retail presence through the acquisition of eBabylon. PriceRunner and the most recent Mezimedia acquisitions are efforts at expanding further into the publishing space and being able to provide retail advertisers with an in-house option for Ads. These new initiatives should drive sizable growth assuming management executes well.

The 3rd part of this article will look at the company’s valuation, risks, and the investment outlook.

ValueClick Analysis:
  1. Part 1 - Accretive Acquisitions Driving Growth.
  2. Part 2 - Developing Synergy Among Different Businesses.
  3. Part 3 - Business Issues.

Passive Income Opportunities – Part 3 – Rental Income

Rental incomes have the advantage that the value of the associated asset and the incomes realized from them correlate well with inflation over the long term. This also explains why many consider it the safe haven in investment. A residential rental property, a strip of land, or an office space that is leased are eligible for this form of passive income opportunity. However, there are a few caveats -

Rental incomes can be considered truly passive only if the management of the asset is setup to be handled by a property management company.
  • Delegating the entire associated maintenance tasks to a property management company attains the hands off approach in managing the rental property. Utilizing such a service has the obvious down side that the rental income is reduced by a sizable percentage as the property management company gets a considerable cut directly from the top line. There are several other expenses that get deducted from the rental income before passive income can be realized including -
    • Expenses for the up-keep of the asset,
    • Property taxes,
    • Utilities.
It is not surprising therefore that in most cases the lion’s share is not what is left standing.

Leverage is mostly the norm and the associated risk needs to be weighed.
  • Leverage is associated with a higher risk factor and has the potential to make you lose more than you invested on the asset. This is best understood with an example. You purchase a rental property for $100K with a down payment of 10%. Assuming you funded all the closing expenses which added up to 2.5%, your total investment in the property is $12.5K. To fund the purchase, the remaining $90K is realized by taking a mortgage on the property. At this point, you have an asset worth $100K for a net investment of $12.5K and your leverage is 90% (100 minus percentage you own). Assuming the property was later sold for $120K and the selling expenses added up to $5K, the return on your investment is $12.5K (115K – 90K – 12.5K = 12.5K or 100%). This sounds upbeat but the downside risk also needs to be evaluated. If the property was instead sold for $80K and the selling expenses added up to $5K, here is what ensues– you owe $90K to the mortgage company for which you have to come up with $15K. Or, you lost 15K more than what you invested – a loss of a whopping 217%. One way to mitigate this big risk is by planning to hold on to the asset for a very long time. Over the long-term, real estate prices, though cyclical, have always gone up. Thus the assurances for a positive return over the long-term are a shoo-in.

An often-overlooked item in the category for passive income is the house one lives in. As the single largest investment for most households, it is an important asset and so careful consideration need to be given as to how it is funded. In an abstract way, passive income can be realized if you own your home outright. Rhetorically, it has the effect of reducing your monthly expenses by a certain amount thus qualifying as another form of passive income. Property taxes and utility expenses are a damper to this income.



Related Posts:
  1. Exiting the Rat Race - Definition.
  2. Rat Race Exit Strategies
  3. Passive Income - Part 1 - Network Marketing.
  4. Passive Income - Part 2 - Royalties
  5. Passive Income - Part 3 - Rental Income
  6. Passive Income - Part 4 - Dividends.
  7. Passive Income - Part 5 - Pension Plans
  8. Passive Income - Part 6 - Employer Plans
  9. Strategies to Beat Inflation.
  10. Strategies to Reduce Expenses.
  11. Frugal Living - A Definition to go by
Last Updated: 01/2015.





Google (GOOG): A hard Sell For Superior Long-Term Returns!


The first step to valuing Google using fundamental analysis requires coming up with a number for the Compounded Annual earnings Growth Rate (CAGR). The table below looks at the growth rates priced in at different share prices, using the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) calcuator at moneychimp:
























CAGR# of YearsStock Price
1010240.06
1510343.79
2010491.85
2310608.20
2510701.19
3010994.29


Assumptions and Basis:
  • Discount rate of 11.3%, set using the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) calculator, also at moneychimp with the following assumptions:
    • Benchmark return-11%, Risk-free return-5%, Beta – 1.05
  • Earnings in the last 12 months – 11.76
  • Google earnings and beta taken from the Google finance site.
  • Earnings growth will level off to 3% after the growth phase of 10 years in the table.

As made clear in the table, for Google stock to be worthy of the current market price, it has to grow earnings at 23% for 10 years. It is of immense value to assess the assumptions employed in the table. Specifically, beta (see definition) at 1.05 implies the return expectation to be only slightly better compared with the excess return (see definition) of the benchmark.

For Google to be a superior investment, the excess return compared to the benchmark needs to be elevated more which implies higher beta going forward. The following table manifests what Google’s CAGR will have to be, to justify the current price at higher beta levels:
















BetaRisk-Adjusted Discount Rate10-year CAGRStock Price
1.51429626.06
2.01734603.24
2.52040635.11




A beta of 2.0 implies twice the excess return of the benchmark or an expected return of 17% (Risk-Free Return + Excess Return * 2 = 5 + (11-5) * 2). As the growth phase approaches maturity 10 years from now, Google will be bound to have earnings of $219.51/share ($11.76 earnings compounded over 10 years at 34%). Assuming an aggressive profit margin of 25%, Google’s projected revenue will have to approach $2.7 Trillion around 2017 (Earnings * Shares Outstanding * 4 = 219.51 * 312M * 4) . Extending the same calculation for a CAGR of 23% for 10 years, the earnings and the projected revenue will translate to $93.21/share and $1.16 Trillion respectively. To place these numbers in perspective, the projected nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country as a whole in the 2017 timeframe is $21.5 Trillion, assuming nominal GDP growth rate will be around 5%, comparable to the last 10 years. Thus, Google revenue will have to be between 5.4% and 12.6% of US GDP 10 years from now, depending on the growth assumption of 23% and 34% respectively – a definite impasse.

The calculators used here are fairly basic and bypasses a number of other variables. The in-depth analysis done by Dr. Aswath Damodaran 9/2006 will definitely appeal to those financially oriented.

In the spirit of full disclosure, as posted, we sold out of Google in August at about 20% below the current price…

Related Posts:

1. Google Chrome Web Browser Beta 1 User Experience - Review.




ValueClick (VCLK) – Part 1 - Accretive acquisitions driving growth

ValueClick emerged from a split-up of the Internet advertising division of Web-Ignite in April 1998. This division pioneered performance based advertising on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis as a viable business model. Since then, the company has focused on creating an ecosystem around its performance based advertising model. With sustainability as its goal, ValueClick steadily acquired several other companies. The following table lists the various acquisitions, price, and technology gained:


















































CompanyDate AcquiredPriceApproximate VCLK Stock PriceTechnology
StraightUp10/2000NR$4.5Reporting
Bach Systems (DBA onResponse)11/2000$3.9M+ in cash$4.5Cost-per-acquisition, Cost-per-click & Cost-per-action
ClickAgents11/2000$24M+ in stock$4.5Allowed expansion of Performance-based banner advertising
Zmedia2/2001$11.7M in stock$5.2Co-registration Network of 4000 websites (Email Marketing)
MediaPlex10/2001$43.9M in stock$2e-CRM – real-time ad serving technology, Adware (offline marketing – hosted services)
Be Free5/2002$128.5M in stock$2.7Performance based Marketing services – hosted online marketing platform for businesses & affiliate marketing
Search 1235/2003$5M cash$4.3Search Marketing Technology
Commission Junction12/2003$58M cash$7.9Affiliate Marketing
Hi-speed Media12/2003$9.5M + $8M max cash$7.9Opt-in email marketing
Price Runner8/2004$29M + $6M max cash + 263,000 shares$7Comparison Shopping – Established in Europe
Web Clients6/2005$141M ($122M cash, 1.8M shares + 350000 options), $59M revenue$10.3Lead-generation for advertisers from its own websites + Affiliate Network + Email Marketing
Ebabylon6/2005$11.7M cash + $3M max, $17M revenue$10.3Online ink & toner retailer. Foundation for eCommerce business
FastClick9/2005$133M (15.6M shares + options for 1.2M shares), $70M revenue$15Display-ad network for advertisers & publishers
MezimediaAnnounced 7/2007$100M cash + $250M incentivised, $40M revenue$31Comparison Shopping – US & China foothold




The company opted to use stock as the primary currency to fund the acquisitions made prior to June 2003 and cash for transactions thereafter. Analyzing the share price appreciation since then, in hindsight it is evident, that cash was the better currency for the acquisitions conducted prior to June 2003. The balance sheet was substantially strong in the cash sector, since ValueClick’s IPO in April 2000 through June 2003.

Moreover, using stock as currency had the adverse effect of increasing the number of outstanding shares by another 40M (helped by a stock buyback program employed around that timeframe for 27M). Those 67M shares are now valued close to $2 billion, accounting for roughly two thirds the value of the company. It is also worth pondering that the 48M shares issued for the acquisition of Be Free representing almost 50% of the outstanding shares was especially expensive- given affiliate marketing represents only about 20% of the company’s revenue.

Even with dubious decisions on using stock as currency, the acquisitions were indeed accretive and the company has expanded both its revenue and earnings per share in the last couple of years.

The 2nd part of the article will focus on the company’s efforts to realize synergy among the various businesses brought together.

ValueClick Analysis:
  1. Part 1 - Accretive Acquisitions Driving Growth.
  2. Part 2 - Developing Synergy Among Different Businesses.
  3. Part 3 - Business Issues.
Stock Analysis:
  1. ClickSoftware (CKSW).
  2. Comparison Of Vertically Integrated Solar Manufacturers(STP, TSL, YGE, CSIQ).
  3. Asure Software (ASUR).
  4. Google (GOOG).
  5. ValueClick (VCLK).
  6. Local.com (LOCM).
  7. Patni Computer Systems Limited (PTI).
  8. St. Joe Companies (JOE).
  9. Central Europe & Russia Fund (CEE).
  10. Suntech Power Holdings (STP).

Scouring The Stock Screens For A Small Cap Gem

On a percentage basis, we target to allocate about 10% of our stock portfolio on small-cap stocks. Our definition of a small cap is stocks with a market capitalization below $500M. While these stocks are associated with a higher risk factor than larger cap stocks, the returns can also be higher. Stocks with a market cap below $100M or with stock price below $1 are prone to even more risk and can dent investor confidence should the stock take a clobbering.

Our portfolio currently lacks stocks that qualify as a small-cap though we do own a few whose market cap ranges between $500M and $5B. The plan is to add a small cap with a market capitalization below $100M initially with about 5% of the total portfolio followed by a second small cap with a market capitalization above $100M with another 5% of the total portfolio.

Analysis of small-caps undertaken by analysts and the media are generally hard to come by, thus leaving the onus on the investor to evaluate the risks involved. Our effort uses stock screening tools to identify stocks to potentially invest in. These are the stocks that we have narrowed down to:























StockPrice*Market CapRevenue*Comments
Atherogenics (AGIX)1.768M46MPerformance dependent largely on diabetes drug phase III study results due early next year.
Qualstar Corporation (QBAK)3.7547M21MManufacturer of magnetic tape libraries. Grew revenue about 20% last quarter after years of stagnating results as a result of the new XLS product line aimed at the high end of the tape library market.
Asure Software, Inc. (ASUR)1.2832M40MFormerly Forgent networks which made a business out of monetizing IP. Now transforming into a SaaS workforce management business.
Dry Clean USA Inc. (DCU)1.9914M24MIndustrial laundry product distributor. Stable business with over 4% yield. But growth may be hard to come by.
Technology Research Corporation (TRCI)3.722M38MElectrical Safety Products Manufacturer. Growth is dependent on military orders and the outcome of a patent infringement lawsuit against Shanghai ELE regarding the FireShield® technology.



  • *Price as of end of the day Thursday
  • **Projected Revenue EOY 2007

Over the years, our efforts to tap into this market niche have not borne fruit. A post that looks at our history with small cap stocks will follow with a focus on learning how to best invest in them.

9V To AAAA Battery Hack Test With Rechargeable Batteries


Most geeks will applaud the video by Kipkay on the 9V battery hack to get 6 AAAA batteries. It got us curious, as we happened to have a couple of 9V rechargeable batteries lying around. Originally, these batteries were used in a cool device called Animal Away that helped us get rid of the problem of four-legged friends using our front yard as their personal area. We gave away the device, the charger, and a couple of batteries when we moved. For some reason, the hoarder in us held on to the two remaining batteries.

The hack is right on the money as far as rechargeable batteries are concerned. We tested the hack on a radio that came with our kid’s bicycle and also on their Leappad. They both use AAA batteries, NOT AAAA that you get from the hack. All one needs are aluminum foils and voila! The AAAA’s are “converted” into AAA’s.

To be practical, is the hack useful? For us, we found use for our neglected 9V rechargeable batteries, which were gathering dust at best. A 9V rechargeable goes for roughly $5 while AAA’s can be had for $1 and a child can point out that the economics don’t hold up. Add in the labor and you lose hand over fist. Also AAAA batteries are hard to come by and if you have devices that function on that kind of batteries, the hack may have some value. Below are details of some devices that need AAAA batteries:



DeviceAAAA batteries required typically
LED Pen LightThree
Laser PointerTwo
Glucose MeterTwo



It is only natural to wonder what other hacks are possible with batteries. Below are a couple that hold promise:
  1. Dismantling a 12V battery that costs $2 apiece to retrieve 8 watch batteries that can go for upwards of $5 apiece. 
  2. Dismantling the 6V lantern battery to retrieve 32 AA batteries.
Last Updated: 01/2015.



Suntech Power Holdings (STP)– Part 3 – Preferring Manufacturing Expertise over R&D

The following table recaps Suntech’s growth since its IPO on 12/14/2005:











Year200520062007(P)2008(E)
Revenue226M598.9M1.3B1.9B
Net Income/Share0.310.681.011.6
EOY Production Capacity (MW)150270480600
Production Output (MW)67.7160.1355NE
Gross Margin30.324.921NE

  • NE – Not Estimated.

Growth in Revenue, Net Income, Production Capacity, and Production Output are all expected to shrink next year. Production Capacity and Output growth are expected to be in the 25% range down from about 50% this year. Gross margin has buckled over the last two years as raw material prices as well as competition increased. Suntech’s growth rate should be in the vicinity of 25% annually, given the capacity projections for 1GW by 2010. This would give the stock a PEG ratio well above 1, qualifying as a fairly rich valuation.


Suntech’s products exclusively based on PV cells made of thin film deposits of silicon semiconductors are second generation technology. Globally, research is underway on the third and fourth generation PV cell technology that could potentially leapfrog Suntech’s technology in both efficiency and price. However, commercial viability of such products is projected to be years away and so this threat can be categorized as a wildcard scenario. To offset such threats, a strong R&D commitment is critical. The table below shows how Suntech’s employee count is split up across the organization:














FunctionEmployee Count% of Total
Mfg. & Engg.226368.9
QA3239.8
G&A2708.2
P&L1424.3
R&D2026.2
Mktg. & Sales822.5
Others20.1
Total3284100



6.2% is a number insignificant for a business that needs very strong R&D. The only silver lining is Suntech’s relationships with certain universities doing research in newer technologies.

All in all, given the magnitude of Suntech’s business issues, under-allocation of resources in the R&D area, and the rich valuation, a long-term investment in Suntech can be expected to yield only average returns.

Suntech Power Holdings Analysis:
  1. Part 1 - A Solar Industry Behemoth In The Making.
  2. Part 2 - Business Issues.
  3. Part 3 - Preferring Manufacturing Expertise Over R&D.

Related Posts:

1. Trina Solar (TSL) - Stock Analysis - 08/08.
2. LDK Solar (LDK) - Stock Analysis - 03/08.
3. Solar Manufacturer Comparison (STP, TSL, YGE, CSIQ) - 11/07.
4. Suntech Power Holdings (STP) - Stock Analysis - 09/07.

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