The bears are getting hungry. We identified 6 stocks that bearish short sellers could devour this summer. We call these stocks bear food. Hopefully you don't have any near your campsite.
LinkedIn (LNKD) This stock is clearly bear food. But at first glance, LinkedIn doesn't seem to have the same glaring problems as the countless web startups that lured in investors over decade ago. With 90 million registered users and about 45 million unique monthly visitors at the end of 2010, LinkedIn is the largest and perhaps most used social media site geared towards business and professionals. The user base is growing briskly - the site says that a new member registers every second – while businesses and advertisers certainly appear interested in buying into its offers. It has been able to build three main revenue streams from advertising targeted at its professional user base, fees based on job postings by businesses, and subscriptions to its premium LinkedIn account tools.
The stock has since reached a sky-high valuation that has many skeptical analysts reaching for their dotcom bubble comparisons and asking: What has LinkedIn done to deserve its current price? Well, without any fundamental support from earnings or even any promising indicators of future growth, the company has done little besides feed off Silicon Valley's latest buzzwords of "social" and "network." Unless CEO Jeff Weiner can actually introduce something spectacular soon, this stock will be retreating back to where it came from.
To start, earnings per share totaled to just $0.039 in 2010, implying a net income of $3.64mil for shareholders. Even if LinkedIn could keep up its amazing 186% growth rate in earnings through 2011, that would still only be a projected $10.43mil in net income and $0.11 EPS at the end of the year. For a market cap of $8.346bil, that's a P/E ratio of 800 – compare that to Google's (GOOG) P/E of 20 and Facebook's P/E, already estimated to be an incredible 200 to 400. Another way to consider the low earnings is a return on investment: $0.11 in net income next year for an $88.32 investment represents a paltry 0.125% annual yield. A 12-month CD would give a better and risk-free return compared to that rate.
Further, LinkedIn shows a disturbing lack of promise for any explosive growth that could validate its pricing. Despite being the largest business and professional network, the company doesn't seem set on being an innovator or expanding the limits of what a business networking website can do. In its public filing, LinkedIn refers to its size and trustworthiness as its main strengths, while its strategy involves a lot of "optimization" and "enhancement." Talk is cheap.
Advanced Battery Technologies Inc. (ABAT): Several analysts have done extensive research on ABAT to justify labeling the company as a fraud. One Seeking Alpha article uncovered some shady moves by its management, including a transaction in which ABAT Chairman Fu Zhiguo transferred his remaining holdings in Heilongjiang ZQPT, a major subsidiary, to ABAT back in 2006 (as reported in ABAT's 2007 10-K filing), thus giving ABAT full ownership. Yet in ABAT's 2009 10-K filing, the company mentions that HLJ ZQPT is fully owned by Chairman Fu, without explanation of how ownership of the subsidiary was ever transferred back to him.
Furthermore, ABAT appears to have spent $20 million on the acquisition of a company in which Chairman Fu had previously held high-level positions—a deal potentially yielding the now-ABAT chairman a substantial sum of money. But that's not all. ABAT's reported success does not seem to be economically (or even physically) possible. Sure, it seems unlikely that a battery company can grow its revenue from $1.1 million in 2004 to $97 million in 2010 without introducing a revolutionary product. But Prescience Investment Group took the investigation a step further by talking with ABAT's customers and even hiring inspectors to visit several of ABAT's manufacturing plants. These reports suggested that the facilities were severely overhyped and not equipped for cutting-edge production methods that could make ABAT's numbers even feasible. All of these findings paint a grim picture for ABAT, and it is hard to dispute something as black and white as the presence of equipment in a factory. We personally find the arguments against ABAT to be compelling enough to keep me a safe distance from the company.
Netflix (NFLX): While NFLX has experienced tremendous growth over the past year, which can be attributed to their relative monopoly over the instant entertainment streaming and mail DVD subscription services, NFLX is beginning to see increased competition from traditional in-home entertainment providers. This competition includes instant streaming of movies and television shows available to Amazon's prime customers, Comcast's (CMCSA), (CMCSK) XFINITY service, and DIRECTV's (DTV) DIRECTV Cinema option. Additionally, NFLX has recently announced the development of original shows exclusively for NFLX customers, which signals to investors NFLX's struggle to find new ways to maintain their historically high growth rate.
Lululemon (LULU): For the fiscal year ended January 30, 2011, net revenue for the fiscal year increased 57% to $711.7 million, and diluted EPS increased 106% to $1.69 on net income of $121.8 million, compared to diluted earnings per share of $0.82 on net income of $58.3 million in FY 2010. Comparable stores sales increased by 30% on a constant dollar basis, resulting in a record $1,726 sales per square foot. The next earnings release is on June 9. For FY 2012, the company expects net revenue to be in the range of $885 million to $900 million and diluted EPS in the range of $1.90 to $2.00. The company has surprised the Street for 9 straight quarters. Lululemon Athletica is a yoga-inspired athletic apparel company looking for a place on par with Nike (NKE). Shares trade at a 20% premium to our discounted cash flow estimate. We use a 10% cost of equity for the company.
OpenTable (OPEN): Bullish and bearish investors have wrestling with this company, which now has a forward PE of 47+. The company has the beginnings of a network moat through its restaurant reservation system. We find the shares to be mildly overpriced on a discounted cash flow basis. Shares trade at a 20% premium to our discounted cash flow estimate.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.