A check of the online stock boards might make you steer clear of
Data Broadcasting Corporation
. Many postings show no mercy for the company, whose shares have been hammered this year, plummeting from 14 to Thursday's close of 7 3/4.
But the postings don't appear to tell the whole tale. In fact, DBC appears to be in for a turnaround, and the price now might be right.
Here's the sad part of the story:
First, a hailed arrangement with Microsoft that failed to materialize. Back in 1994, competitor
(PQT:AMEX) was chosen to provide quotes for the
(MSFT:Nasdaq) fledgling Microsoft Network. But PC Quote could not handle the volume, so with some fanfare DBC got the business in June of 1995. But by July 1996, PCQuote got their act together and got the gig back. DBC had proudly announced the deal with Microsoft, but when they got the boot, there was no press release or formal announcement.
Next, negative postings. DBC COO Mark Imperiale says bearish, unfair postings have hurt the stock. He says one of the posters is someone who is trying to sue the company, although he declined to name names.
Finally, there's the site's internet strategy. DBC claims to have the most visited site on the web (http://www.dbc.com). (You might have visited it without knowing it, as DBC provides the stock quote service for other web sites.) But DBC makes very little money off this. Their real-time internet quote service, MarketWatch, has also been poorly received. Imperiale concedes that the service has only 1,600 subscribers. "But our principal business is not an internet business," he says. "That core business is really tiny for us."
But here's the upside:
DBC's primary service is providing quotes for professional traders--and that business is booming. In the last year, DBC has initiated the launch of three products--BondVu, a Windows-based product that analyst Joel Krasner of
says provides 80% of Bloomberg's capabilities at 20% of the cost; AgCast, a commodities information service for farmers; and ABA Business Vision, a video training product for lawyers. These launches have been a short-term drain on earnings, costing $1.7 million and causing DBC to miss their number the last three quarters. But Imperiale expects these new products to contribute $100 million in annual revenues by 1999.
On November 12, DBC reported a 21% rise in net income for the fiscal first quarter ended Sept. 30, and said its board authorized a stock buyback plan of as many as two million shares. Profits rose to $1.6 million, or five cents a share, from $1.3 million, or four cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 6.9% to $30.2 million from $28.2 million. Imperiale says the buyback was sparked by the company's "undervalued" stock price.
"Some companies would try to spread out these costs or incur debt," says Krasner, who calls the stock a "screaming buy." "But DBCC took these costs upfront. So the company has not met the earnings estimates that have been out on the street. But revenues have been what they're looking for, they have a clean balance sheet, and virtually no debt. The company is putting out these new services. They're willing to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there."
By Cory Johnson