If companies had pop-up thermometers like Thanksgiving turkeys,
would be sticking out right now. It's about done, at least as it relates to the company's exchange business.
The Mountain View, Calif., business-to-business exchange company that saw its stock close at $243.50 last March, announced Tuesday that it had a net loss of $451.6 million on no revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2000. In addition, the company said its chief operating officer, chief financial officer and vice president of marketing would be leaving the company.
Ventro's stock closed up 6 cents, or 3.9%, at $1.69 Tuesday prior to announcing those results. In after hours trading, it continued to rise to $1.81, a 7% gain.
The company also said it would be making a tender offer to buy back its convertible debt at 27 cents on the dollar. Market value for that debt is closer to 25 cents on the dollar, according to
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's
"The fat lady has begun to sing," said Jon Ekoniak, an analyst with
U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray
who has a neutral rating on the stock. "I don't know where they can go from here. The one thing they had was some good people, and now they're losing them, too." (His firm hasn't done underwriting for the company.)
But on the company's conference call with analysts, CEO David Perry said the company didn't foresee layoffs for its 270 remaining employees and that it would continue its transition to a service-based business model. He said the company had $185 million in cash, and was still hiring.
"We've taken decisive action in response to the changes that have taken place in 2000, and we remain optimistic about our future," Perry said on the call. The company has said it is in transition to a services business to help other exchanges run their businesses. Perry didn't give financial guidance for analysts.
Ventro, formerly known as
, is the embodiment of the rise and fall of "independent" exchanges in the B2B sector. After holding an $85 million IPO in July 1999, its shares skyrocketed on the rising B2B tide to build an $11 billion market cap. But a slow ramp-up in the use of its electronic exchanges, coupled with bigger technical challenges and more competition from industry-backed competitors, helped whittle away at its potential and its share price.
Exchanges run by third parties such as Ventro have fallen out of favor, because many companies are now setting up their own "private" Internet exchanges in which they can conduct business with their customers and suppliers, sans middlemen.
During the fourth quarter, Ventro
announced that it would shut down its flagship Chemdex Internet exchange for the life sciences industry, as well as its
exchange for high-end medical devices. Most of the company's loss for the quarter was the result of initiating the shutdown of Chemdex, as well as completing the Promedix closure.
At that time, the company said it would focus on transitioning to a "marketplace service provider," a services company that would help other Internet-based exchange companies in their operations. But the company said it had no revenue from those efforts during the fourth quarter, though it provided some services "at cost."
"It was one of the poster companies of the B2B vertical space," Ekoniak said. "Now, it's one of the poster companies of the (changes in the) B2B vertical space."