Updated from 7:21 a.m.New subscriptions and rebounding ad revenue lifted financial results for TheStreet.com's ( TSCM) established operations. But the company still posted a small loss last quarter as those gains were offset by continued investment in Independent Research Group LLC, the company's securities research and brokerage segment. TheStreet.com, which publishes this Web site and provides independent research, online financial commentary, analysis and news, reported several milestones for the second quarter ended June 30. Companywide net revenue was $9.1 million, up 43% from the year-earlier quarter and the highest level ever for the 8-year-old company. That strength reflected record-high subscription revenue in the company's Electronic Publishing Segment, which rose 31% to $5.7 million. Advertising revenue was also strong, up 30% from the year-ago second quarter to $1.9 million. For the segment, net income was $1.3 million in the second quarter. For the IRG segment, the second-quarter net loss was $1.4 million. Net revenue in the segment was $1.2 million, up 56% from the first quarter. Because it began accepting commissions last May, the company said a year-over-year revenue comparison is not meaningful. The bottom line for TheStreet.com was a second-quarter net loss of $100,000, or 1 cent a share, according to generally accepted accounting principles. That loss was significantly smaller than the year-earlier loss of $1.3 million, or 5 cents a share, and this year's first-quarter loss of $1.6 million, or 6 cents a share. TheStreet.com's cash balance at the end of the second quarter was $30.9 million, up 9% over the same period last year, and up 3% from the previous quarter. This was achieved despite a continued cash investment in IRG, said Thomas J. Clarke Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of TheStreet.com. "Both businesses are going strong and getting stronger every day," Clarke said on a conference call Thursday. He said that despite the loss in the IRG segment, it is exceeding the company's expectations and is on track to be self-funding in 2005. Clarke acknowledged confusion and questions about TheStreet.com's decision to focus on IRG's highly competitive business of providing stock research. But he defended the decision, saying that IRG can enhance TheStreet.com's profitability, even if it is not bundled with the investment-banking services that many firms use to subsidize their research. "We're seeing a lack of ideas in the marketplace, and we're hitting on that with IRG," Clarke said. At the same time, Clarke said IRG will remain focused on companies that are not covered by Wall Street's traditional players. IRG now has nine stock analysts and may add a few more, but the subsidiary is otherwise fully staffed, Clarke said. "The build out is largely complete." IRG now has more than 100 customers utilizing its trading capabilities, the company said. The unit's investment research now covers some 44 companies and arranged 121 one-on-one client meetings with management teams of covered companies. IRG expanded its institutional sales operations in the second quarter by establishing a Boston presence to serve clients in the Northeast, one of the main investment centers in the U.S.
In the Electronic Publishing Segment, net revenue in the second quarter was $7.9 million, up 27% from the same period last year, and up 11% over the first quarter. Deferred revenue, which represents subscription bookings that will be recognized as revenue in future quarters, was $8.6 million, a 25% year-over-year increase and a 6% increase from the previous quarter. Clarke said about 85% of advertisers come from the financial segment, which tends to commit to longer-term contracts that cushion seasonal volatility. Outside the financial sector, Clarke said the company has attracted advertisers in the airlines segment. TheStreet.com counts 76,200 subscribers, up 21% from a year earlier and up 2% from the first quarter. Average annual revenue per subscriber was $302, an increase of 9% from the quarter a year ago. Boosting subscriptions was the second-quarter launch of "TheStreet.com Stocks Under $10," a subscription email alert service designed to help active market participants invest in stocks priced below $10 a share. Clarke cited the product as an example of TheStreet.com's edge in providing specific stock recommendations rather than the more general advice coming from traditional media organizations. The company also added several new contributors to "RealMoney.com," one of its subscription Web sites. They include leading financial journalist Jon Markman, and financial industry analyst Charles (Chuck) L. Hill. "TheStreet.com's record revenue demonstrates the success of our unwavering commitment to investing in, and developing, our diverse revenue streams," said Lisa A. Mogensen, chief financial officer of TheStreet.com. "This success, evident across both of our business segments, contributes to our long-term objective of positioning the company for continued growth this year and beyond." Clarifying the company's revenue streams, Clarke said 62% of the total comes from subcriptions, 21% from advertising, 13% from commissions, and 4% from miscellaneous. He expects commissions to be a larger contributor in the future. He also expressed optimism about the company's new investor education division. Total operating expenses in the second quarter were $9.3 million, an increase of 20% from a year earlier but down 2% from last quarter. Within the Electronic Publishing Segment, expenses were down $200,000, or 3% from a year earlier. In the IRG segment, expenses were up $1.8 million, or 224% from a year earlier. Shares of TheStreet.com were up 15 cents, or nearly 5%, to $3.35 in midday trading on Thursday. Still, the shares are well below their 52-week high of $5.77. "Our stock is incredibly cheap, and we will be very aggressive in buying it back," Clarke said. "We're a difficult company to get behind," Clarke said, because some of the company's models conflict with those used on Wall Street. But if investors won't recognize the value of the company's shares, "we will," Clarke said. He also said the company will be looking for acquisitions in both its business segments that would be "immediately accretive."