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LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. -- The Roth Capital Partners Growth Conference has a unique focus on small-cap stocks that are about to do something -- good or bad. And though they vary from Internet to semiconductor to biotech, the presentations have had a certain formula to them.

The CEO takes to the podium next to a giant projection screen. Dressed in a conservative suit and tie, he (it's almost always a he) introduces himself, and has an initial slide of legalese, the so-called Fair Harbor statement, meant to protect him from the liability of forward-looking statements. Then the CEO whets the appetite with a presentation of an outrageous market opportunity, followed by a seemingly conservative estimate of his company's potential share of that market. Then, and most important, the CEO talks about how the company will make money from this market. Finally, the CEO delineates the company's progress along those goals.

At least that's how they're supposed to go.

But not


. This operator of a Hispanic language portal offered the typical hello, a Fair Harbor statement and an


discussion of the market opportunity for the Hispanic online audience. But no where was the magic word "revenue" mentioned. And earnings? Fuhgedaboudit.

Indeed, CEO Gary Trujillo went on for 25 minutes without ever once explaining how his company was going to actually make


once his company woos the coveted U.S. Hispanic audience. This is nothing new to followers of The company went public on June 24, 1999 at $12, a $55.2 million offering lead by

Cruttenden Roth

. But the shares have been a disappointment since, never rising above 26 7/8 and now trading at 8 5/16. The best the company could offer in this time has been marketing studies showing that U.S. Hispanics recognize the phrase "Quepasa."


But one theme did emerge from the presentation: free Internet access. The company has partnered with

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to offer free access to those who sign up for Quepasa's service. "We're going to be distributing 2 million CDs to the Hispanic market," said Trujillo. "Once you download it, you won't have a choice but to have Quepasa as your home page."

Problem is, this just about eliminates the only hope that many Quepasa shareholders still hold -- a dream that

America Online


will acquire Quepasa. "AOL


free," says one fund manager. "With all these nonpaying NetZero customers, Quepasa has ensured that AOL will never buy them."

Hasta la vista? But that phrase rings a bell too.

Another note on SDL

After his presentation,



chief financial officer, Michael Foster, talked to a few investors in a breakout session about Cisco's Dec. 20, 1999, acquisition of Italian cable-and-tire maker Pirelli . "The Perelli guys buy our products and love our products," said Foster. "We've had numerous meetings with Cisco's people. I don't know if it's going to pan out or not, but the unit volume they're talking about from Perelli is a lot more than Perelli had been talking about. And as long as the Perelli engineers make the decisions and Cisco does the buying, it might prove to be a pretty big deal for us."


here for part two of this column.

Cory Johnson files weekly from's San Francisco Bureau. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he neither owns nor shorts individual stocks, although he owns shares of He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Johnson welcomes your feedback at

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