Hate to bore you with the same old stuff ... but the same old stuff, with the same old silliness, is driving this same old stock market.
The same old stuff this time is none other than
Lernout & Hauspie
, the Belgian speech recognition and translation company, which rose almost 20% to 45 5/16 after announcing what would appear to be a new alliance with
. Or at least that's what you'd think if you just read the headline of the press release, "Lernout & Hauspie's Internet Translation Services to Be Offered on Microsoft Office Update Web Site."
Sounds impressive, until you look at the details (or lack thereof), which plenty of investors apparently didn't do. Had they done so, they would've seen that this really has nothing to do with the sexy side of its business, speech. It's just document translation, which is a commodity business. More important, this deal, if you can call it that, is really nothing more than just another Internet marketing deal that Lernout may or may not have paid for -- certainly not the other way around. (I say "may or may not have" because Lernout won't discuss the financial details, and Microsoft declined comment.)
However, according to Lernout, anybody wanting a document translated from one language to another can get the first page of that document translated for free on Microsoft's Office Update page. (Though it won't even be available for another month or so, which makes you wonder about the timing of this release in this
-wacky world.) Lernout will then forward a cost for translating the rest of the document to the potential customer. L&H goes so far as to say the deal is good because it gets an "opportunity to tap into millions of new potential customers..." etc., etc.
Investors, however, "see the name Microsoft and see various things and get themselves whooped into a frenzy," says longtime L&H short-seller (and a longtime source of this column) Marc Cohodes of
. (Yep, same old source!) "Everybody loses track of the fact that this company keeps missing its quarters, has 127 days of receivables (high for
biz) and that analysts continue to cut earnings estimates." Analysts' estimates for the fourth quarter have been sliced from as high as around 39 cents per share to around 22 cents per share, according to
First Call/Thomson Financial
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Ironically, yesterday's rise pumped up Lernout's market value by $400 million. That's almost as much as the
market cap of
Bowne & Co.
-- which Cohodes' firm is long -- which in August is believed to have beat out Lernout for a multimillion dollar translation contract with Microsoft. After a brief rise, Bowne's stock has done nothing but fall.
And this note: In the press release -- in one of those canned comments -- Lernout quotes "Taylor Collier," who is identified as business development manager, Microsoft Office. Only problem: His last name is really spelled Collyer. Let's hope Lernout's translation service is more accurate than
released fiscal first-quarter earnings after the market closed. Bottom line: 7 cents per share, a penny shy of estimates. Quality of those earnings? A "one-time arbitrage opportunity" for $20 million in revenue translated into 3 cents per share, while $3.6 million in revenue from sales to its
sub contributed another penny.
again because it questioned whether the B2Bs were running out of steam just before they started their latest liftoff. Hey, JJC: I'm the guy who raised questions about the likes of
Diamond Technology Partners
-- three stocks that have gone to infinity and beyond subsequent to my first column on each. (I wouldn't change a word of what I wrote!)
When you hit them for raising questions about the runaway stock prices, you hit me, one of
very own columnists. You know as well as I do that many of your so-called
Red Hots are really filled with little more than hot air. Traders like you (note I didn't say investors) often mistake your/their own cleverness for little more than luck and timing. (OK, Jim, you also have great instincts, but you catch my drift.)
Excuse those of us in the press (and that's what I consider myself part of) who feel compelled to question some of this nutty market logic. I realize questioning logic doesn't help seasoned traders like you make money. But it can help everybody else -- especially those who think making money in the markets is
easy -- realize that if the fundamentals don't materialize, you can lose it, too.
This week's best (so far) comes from a
, who writes: "I hope you come in yail." I think he meant I hope you go to jail. Lots of chatter about that lately. Lots of folks saying I should go to jail and that I should be investigated by the
because of the columns I've been writing that question the accounting practices and valuations of various companies. I'll leave it to you to guess which ones. Wolfie's comments were directed to my item the other day on
Right, I should go to jail because of a column that
suggested MedImmune may have a hard time turning in the growth Wall Street is expecting. The column was based on research from one of my best short-selling sources, who happens to know
part of the biotech industry as well as anybody. MedImmune, itself, still hasn't returned the calls I placed
to writing the column. I point this out not to elicit "don't let the thugs get to you down, Herb" letters. I get plenty of those already, and don't worry, they won't and don't. (I received the same kind of emails after writing about
and a list of investment laggards that is longer than I care to write. And who knows, maybe MedImmune will blow the doors off all estimates?)
I point this out to remind you of where we are in the market. (See the Lernout item above.) And it's not even a full moon!
Think I'm a lunatic? Don't send me an email, save it for the
Herb Greenberg writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, though he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He welcomes your feedback at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Greenberg also writes a monthly column for Fortune.
Mark Martinez assisted with the reporting of this column.