Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Do Not Buy FSLR

First Solar is set to release earnings after the market closes (in about 7 minutes), and I believe that it will be hard for FSLR to impress the street. Their disappointing results last quarter led to a huge drop in share price.

Read my full analysis at The No Buy List.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Revisiting VMWare: Still Not a Buy

I have previously written about VMWare on this blog. VMW provides many different IT services to corporations and consumers, primarily focusing on virtualization and cloud computing.

I last wrote about them exactly one year ago on the day of an earnings release; back then, shares traded at $56. Today shares only fetch $26.

I published a brief article about the challenges that VMWare continues to face. Check it out at The No Buy List.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Continue to Avoid Swine Flu-Related Stocks

Originally posted at The No Buy List:

This morning, I wrote about huge daily declines in share prices of companies that have exposure to any business that may be adversely affected by the swine flu (or simply a reluctance to travel/go out because of fear of it). Shares of such companies continued to fall throughout the day:

  • Carnival Corp. (CCL), -13.5%
  • Royal Caribbean (RCL), -16.3%
  • Southwest Airlines (LUV), - 9.4%
  • US Airways (LCC), -17.4%
  • Smithfield Foods (SFD), -12.4%
All five companies mentioned saw a slight rebound in aftermarket trading (generally 1-2%), suggesting that investors were ready to expose themselves to some risk.

The pace of new developments in this swine flu saga seems to be slowing, pointing to a possible end of such knee-jerk declines. However, some entities continue to escalate their reactions: Russia has temporarily banned meat imports from Mexico and a few US states, and more recently announced that it will begin checking planes arriving from the Americas. The World Health Organization has also raised its alertness level, and new cases are continuing to pop up in different corners of the globe.

So how does swine flu relate to stocks right now? I would not yet dabble in companies and industries (travel, meat, etc.) that are effected (actually or psychologically) from this swine flu concern. If and when the panic blows over, investors that jumped in at the right time will realize healthy gains from stocks like CCL. However, it is too soon to discern the extent of this swine flu problem, so prudent investors should avoid buying any affected companies in the immediate future.

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Do Not Buy Swine Flu-Related Stocks

Published at The No Buy List:

As the world is freaking out about a possible swine flu pandemic, travel related stocks are being sold off. The damage that swine flu will inflict on airlines and cruise companies is likely (much) more psychological than tangible, but I would still avoid buying any travel-related stocks until this swine flu hype (hopefully) blows over.

For example, Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) shares are down 10% as of 10 AM Monday, and its main competitor, Royal Carribean (RCL) is down 15%. Airlines are taking a beating too - Southwest (LUV) is down about 9%, while US Air (LCC), which was also downgraded by UBS this morning, is trading down 15%. Here is a little article on MarketWatch showing the price declines of airline stocks.

Actual bookings for things like cruises and flights may decline if this fear doesn't pass over quickly. But the market will continue to sell these stocks as long as the swine flu scare is making news. Eventually, there will be a buying opportunity after the fear subsides, but I would not be buying any of these stocks today.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Do Not Buy

Written and originally published by myself at The No Buy List - a blog focused on negative analysis of companies. began as an internet book retailer and has expanded into sales of goods of all kinds. A consumer can now buy everything from groceries to the latest G-Unit CD on Amazon. Amazon's product offerings only continue to grow as they add more products to their site directly and invite outside sellers to sell through the Amazon portal. Amazon has even begun developing and selling its own products: the recently-introduced Kindle 2 created much buzz and will fluff Amazon's bottom line as they are the sole retailer of the high-margin product: "A teardown analysis of the Kindle 2 by market research firm iSuppli estimates the cost to build the device at $185.49, or about 52% of its retail price of $359" (Businessweek).

With other offerings like apparel, foodstuffs, and mp3 downloads, Amazon is attempting to diversify into a seller that can supply almost anything a consumer could want. The strategy does seem to be working, as revenue and profit keep increasing despite a sour economy. However, Amazon's weakness has always been tight margins, and margin expansion is unlikely. The internet is an ultra-competitive animal, as many websites (like exist solely to alert consumers to good deals. Amazon's decision to allow outside sellers to sell products on the website (via the Fulfillment-by-Amazon program and the simpler Selling on Amazon option) allows sellers to attempt to match or undercut Amazon's prices, making it more difficult for Amazon to retain healthy markups (except on niche products like the Kindle).

When Amazon can't increase margins, they increase volume, which has worked thus far. I believe it will continue to work, as consumers will increasingly turn to Amazon to meet all of their discretionary needs, so I do believe that Amazon will continue to be a growing, healthy, and increasingly profitable company.

However, Amazon makes the Do Not Buy List due to an overly-rich current valuation. Amazon is expected to make $1.50 per share this year, slapping a price to earnings ratio of over 50 on shares. Even next year's earnings, currently estimated at $1.94, will maintain a P/E of over 40. Since I believe that Amazon will continue to perform well, I'll say that Amazon will make $2.75/share next year - even with such results, the shares would still trade at a 29 P/E. These ratios are much, much higher than competitors, and seem unsustainable despite recent enthusiasm.

eBay, Amazon's most comparable online competitor, trades at a P/E of just 10 (though that is partially attributable to problems with eBay's business). Wal-Mart, the diversified brick-and-mortar retailer, trades at a P/E of 15, while Target, Wal-Mart's smaller competitor, trades at a similar valuation. Best Buy, the electronics retailer, trades at roughly a 17 P/E.

Amazon's business model does differ from these retailers - Amazon is less of a pure-retail play with the addition of revenue streams like music sales, the Fulfillment by Amazon program, publishing, and more - but at its core, AMZN is a retailer. Amazon does have a world-class supply chain and does not have to pay for retail square footage like the aforementioned competitors do. But because a consumer can buy the same books, movies, and groceries from Target or Best Buy, Amazon's margins on such commoditized items will always remain slim.

The bottom line is that is a great company that trades at a somewhat-ridiculous valuation. AMZN will report earnings later this week, and I have a cannot believe that any news could propel shares much higher at this point. Therefore, Amazon will be placed on the Do Not Buy List for the short- to medium-term until margins show signs of improving, or earnings increase to a point where AMZN's P/E falls closer in line with competitors.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009 Offends Gay Community will likely take some heat tomorrow as it has become known that they apparently have been systematically "hiding" books deemed to be about non-heterosexual topics by changing classifications and making them ineligible for their ranking systems.

A reasonably-thorough article is available here, but expect more news on this tomorrow as the mainstream media picks up this story.

I know of this now because of the already-huge backlash on Twitter. I recently signed up for a Twitter account (to promote my ski wax company, Whacks Wax, which is coincidentally sold on and the website's millions of microbloggers are tweeting furiously about this topic. (On a related note, I think Twitter is pretty pointless and unmonitizable, though that doesn't mean some bigger company won't buy it [after all, Google bought YouTube and eBay overpaid for Skype].)

Though some people are already tweeting for a total boycott of, that's obviously ridiculous. There will likely be some protests and LGBT spokespeople complaining through various news mediums, but this drama should blow over shortly. The only people that I feel are very wronged are the authors and publishers of the blacklisted books, so I do hope that the problems will be fixed and that their personal wrongs will be righted.

I think that Amazon's results may be materially affected by this in one of two ways.

On one hand, the calls for boycott may keep some people from making purchases. It is possible to still buy books from physical bookstores or other websites, so Amazon may give up a couple of percentage points of market share in the very immediate future (the next few days or weeks). But I expect that Amazon will quickly apologize and hope that this is all forgotten, and I don't expect any huge long-term effects. The simple truth is that Amazon is too big, popular, and powerful to get hurt by such a minor slip-up.

On the other, Amazon might actually benefit from this negative publicity. An unintended positive consequence may actually be additional traffic and sales on within the next few days. Amazon is obviously already a household name, but the attention Amazon may receive will likely drive MORE people to the site, as people read the site's name in their newspapers and hear it on the evening news. Amazon sells anything and everything - from books to banadages - so visitors may just curiously type in a desired item and end up buying it.

The bottom line is that huge companies like Amazon shouldn't bother to try to sneak things like this past the watchdog that is the internet community. It would have been better for them simply to have stated upfront that "due to new company policy, books with strong homosexual material will be ineligable for popularity rankings" rather than try to cover it up. In the age of Googling, Twitter, and blogging, someone is bound to stumple upon these types of things, and the discovery of secrecy causes a stronger backlash than what would have been initially suffered. may be a little embarrassed that they got caught enacting this shameful policy, but they will continue to perform strongly as a company nonetheless.

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