WARNING: The Surgeon General has
determined that a less-than-careful reading of
what follows may be injurious to your financial
health. Read carefully, then proceed with great
I wrote here about the Darwinian effects of the shave and haircut that dot-com share prices have taken over the past three weeks -- principally, that we can no longer assume there is a handful of companies in each dot-com category that may prove to be winners.
Instead, the Grim Reaper of the
-- and some very short cash positions at many of these
"profits? oh, someday..."
companies -- have cut the number of probable winners in most areas to just one or two companies.
If you've been playing the leaders, you're probably OK. If you've been playing the "strong No. 2's" game, you're, oh, probably OK. But if you've gone bottom-fishing, betting on some bright stars back in the pack, your investment has likely evaporated. Or soon will. Not just "fallen." G-O-N-E.
I'd no sooner filed that column than I started feeling pangs of guilt. Seems to me that if columnists are going to suggest that kind of proposition, they ought to back up their musings with some concrete examples.
I have to tell you, columnists
the kind of list I'm about to give you. With so many entries, it's obvious they can't all be right. And lists such as these stir up firestorms of
"Why isn't my company on that damned list?!?"
emails from investors.
is all about (as I've said here before) straight talk among friends. So I'm going to trust you with this list, in the fervent hope it isn't misused ... and with a not-so-small prayer that it doesn't come back to haunt me.
Here is a table of my current guesses -- remember that word -- of the winners and runners-up (also a viable financial position in most cases) in each of 27 categories in B2C e-tailing. I've also chosen, in some cases, dark horses in several categories, companies I think just may displace the No. 2's on my list.
PLEASE: Make certain you read the disclaimers and footnotes after viewing the table!
Now for the notes:
- I have small, indirect interests in some of these companies, through a piece of a privately held Internet incubator. Those companies include
weddingchannel.com, and perhaps others in which the incubator has made investments I'm unaware of.
Not all of these companies are "investable"; some (for example,
MySimon) have been acquired by larger companies. Others are not (yet) public companies.
A "?" in the table means I think it's just too unclear which company, if any, will occupy that space.
A "--" in the table means I don't think there
will be a company occupying that space.
I know: You disagree. This is a brutally Darwinian list. And where are
your companies? If you have your own little list, it's fine to write me, or to include it in a message on our boards. But please: If you do write me on this, don't expect a detailed defense of why I think Company A deserves to go on the list, but Company B doesn't. Life is too short.
And most importantly,
this is by no means a recommendation to invest in these companies. Almost all of these stocks are beaten down right now, and while that may be a buying opportunity, it may also indicate a company mired in sub-$5 Penny-Stock Land for some time to come. Or worse. Yes, I think they'll be winners; no, I don't think that will happen this week, this month or this year.
So do I see a rehabilitation of B2C dot-coms ahead?
I sure do. At today's prices, many dot-coms in the B2C space are almost irresistible bargains. Almost all, maybe even all, of the padding in their former prices -- say, as of mid-March -- has been wrung out. And for many of these companies, the only thing wrong with them as investments then was that their prices were just too high. Often
The Internet's not going away. Shopping on the Net isn't going away. There are profits, big profits, to be made in the future in this space. This brutal wipeout of the weaker companies makes the ultimate winners much stronger, and profitable much sooner.
But for now, these companies -- at least, these investments -- are only for the very bold, the very flush and for those with a
Rip Van Winkle
-like ability to sleep at night.
Jim Seymour is president of Seymour Group, an information-strategies consulting firm working with corporate clients in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and a longtime columnist for PC Magazine. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. At time of publication, neither Seymour nor Seymour Group directly held positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Seymour does not write about companies that are current or recent consulting clients of Seymour Group. While Seymour cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites your feedback at