More gaming the market:
There are so many names for the current stock market game that I'm having trouble keeping them straight. There's the "put a higher target on the stock without raising estimates" game -- a la recent analyst action on
There's the "let's squeeze 'em till they die game" -- a la
Lernout & Hauspie
. And there's the "let's claim to have an alliance with a big company" game, which brings us to
, a software distributor whose stock was bloodied a few months ago because of disappointing earnings.
Normally, a company the size of Software Spectrum, with a market cap of only $130 million, wouldn't even catch my attention. But it epitomizes the games being played on Wall Street these days, especially with smaller companies that have no analyst coverage and whose stocks are getting whipped into a frenzy by message-board euphoria.
The frenzy started lifting Software Spectrum's stock Friday on message-board chatter that the company had struck a deal with
. The deal, it turns out, was announced last week in Europe to the trade press. Friday alone the stock lifted 38%, only to gain another 26% yesterday after the Dallas-based company made it official: It had "strengthened" its "global Alliance with IBM through an increased focus on e-business."
E-business. E-commerce. Business-to-business. This press release included all of the right buzzwords to keep investors hooked.
But beyond the buzzwords, what was the company really saying?
Well, according to the press release, "The Alliance with IBM is designed to accelerate the growth of Software Spectrum's expertise in business-to-business Internet development."
However, we also learn that "Our Alliance with IBM has been in place for three years," but that "the focus and scope of the Alliance have changed..."
In other words, nothing is really new. It's like an auto dealer saying, "Instead of selling the '96 Buick, we'll now be selling the '99 Buick."
So, what's the news? What warranted such a big pop in the stock? Hard to say. When you get beyond the buzzwords, the new IBM alliance is really nothing more than an extension of the company's old IBM alliance, which really amounts to little more than IBM training Software Spectrum to sell IBM's products as part of the "consulting" side of Software Spectrum's business.
The alliance itself, a spokeswoman says, is not revenue generating.
Of course, that
in the press release.
Lernahooligan alert (otherwise known as beating a dead horse):
Speaking of announcements for the sake of announcements, get a load of Lernout & Hauspie's from yesterday. Our old friend, whose stock is somewhere in the stratosphere these days -- it closed yesterday at 123 3/4 -- announced that it has a new licensing agreement with
. Can't get any better, from the sex-and-sizzle standpoint, than that.
Care to bet how high the stock pops on
If it does go higher, it won't be because investors tried to find out details of the deal. One of my sources did. He quotes a spokeswoman as saying that Lernout already licenses its products to
, which is owned by AOL, so the new deal won't generate any significant revenues. Asked why the announcement was made, the spokeswoman reportedly said that it was a "momentum announcement" to let the Street know that they were out there closing deals.
A momentum announcement?! At least they're honest. (Can ya believe the nerve?!)
Oh, if you're wondering why I'm relying on a source to tell me what Lernout said, rather than getting it directly from Lernout, I quote my trusty sidekick,
, who tried to call and get info, but was told by the same spokeswoman, "We don't talk to you guys."
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
email@example.com. Greenberg also writes a monthly column for Fortune.
Mark Martinez assisted with the reporting of this column.