Sometimes the junk you find when you're cleaning out your grandmother's basement is ... well, just that - junk. Every now and then, however, there's something hidden among the tattered lampshades and back issues of Life that makes the lucky fortune hunters gasp when they're told its value on "Antiques Roadshow."
The peer-to-peer e-commerce operation is part fortune hunter - "Hey, a Honus Wagner trading card, and in vintage condition!" - but mostly a web platform that allows individuals to sell and buy handmade bric-a-brac, do-dads and craft-making materials.
Etsy, founded in Brooklyn, NY, in 2005, has had a decidedly uneven experience in its two years as a public company. Having gone public in 2015 at $16 a share, the stock fell to below $7 and came to be regarded as the worst IPO of that year. But it's got one attribute that the investor in e-commerce that wants to diversify a portfolio prizes above all else:
Its fourth quarter 2016, ended Dec. 31, is expected to show 23% growth over the year-earlier period, beating the 15% improvement that analysts had anticipated, according to a recent report from Roth Capital Partners, which recently surveyed merchandisers who sell their wares on the website.
Its 2017 revenue growth is expected to trump last year's improvement, according to Roth. The company figures to reap the benefits of some of the sellers' supports services it has invested in over the last two years, including paid promotions, direct checkout and its Pattern website building kit.
"We believe the risk/reward (in Etsy) remains favorable," Darren Aftahi, e-commerce analyst at Roth, said in his note.
There's also the prospect - however fantastical - of a hookup with a larger e-commerce partner. In a recent note, an analyst at Monness Crespi & Hardt suggested that eBay (EBAY) - Get Report might want to look into acquiring Etsy, which currently carries a market cap of $1.5 billion.
The return on the investments in premium services could come at a price. If it makes its seller base pay more for services, that core base could throttle down its usage of Etsy, or think of migrating to a rival service, such as Square (SQ) - Get Report with a market cap of $5 billion, or Shopify (SHOP) - Get Report with a $4.3 billion market cap.
Those merchandisers could even consider moving to Amazon, which on Oct. 15 introduced its own rival service, dubbed Amazon Homemade. It's a different model than the Etsy premium services agenda, as Amazon Homemade is pretty much a strictly commission-based business, taking 12% of the value of the goods traded on its site. But even with a 15-month track record behind the Handmade brand, Etsy still has 100 times the seller base of Amazon.
This year is expected to be pivotal in the maturation of Etsy as an e-commerce business. Roth said it anticipated that the company would grow its Ebitda by 50% this year. It may not yet be profitable - it has turned in one profitable quarter in its nearly two years as a public company, that in the first quarter last year - but e-commerce companies are valued on metrics other than bottom line.
Still, the balance sheet, until late last year, didn't look too attractive to investors. It's share price has been back to $16 for only a day in October of last year.
Even so, the stock rebounded by 42% in 2016, and currently trades at $12.90. Roth has a target of $15.75, giving it a 20%-plus upside for this year.
Revenue is expected to rise from $273 million in its IPO year of 2015 to $447 million this year and $520 million next year.
Nevertheless, the stock is relatively cheap when compared to other e-commerce companies: trading at 14 times enterprise value and 17 times Ebitda. If it can get investors to buy into the stock the way the merchants using the platform do - the average seller stays with Etsy for 26 months - perhaps there could be a longer tailwind to what was once the worst performing IPO of a lousy year for IPOs.