Although Straight Path (STRP) was the subject of a heated bidding war between AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) , ultimately selling for $3.1 billion, the wireless spectrum and IP holding company is below most investors' radar. Here are eight surprising facts about the company.
1. The company has only existed as a stand-alone business since 2013, when parent company IDT (IDT) spun off Straight Path into a separate publicly-traded company.
2. Straight Path could barely field a company softball team, with just nine staffers at the end of fiscal year 2016. They would have to bring in a ringer in a 10-player league.
3. The company's 2016 revenues came to just $2.1 million in fiscal year 2016, meaning that Verizon is paying more than 1,400 times sales.
4. The reason Straight Path has become so valuable, however, is not because of its revenues, but because of its spectrum, which is useful for 5G wireless services. By a common industry metric, Straight Path has 173 billion megahertz-Pop, or megahertz of spectrum times population covered, according to Wells Fargo. Verizon is paying $0.017 per MHz pop, Wells Fargo reports, while AT&T had initially offered $0.009 per MHz-POP. The price is rock-bottom compared to a recent government spectrum auction that had an average price of $1.31 MHz-POP in the top 40 markets. But the business case for providing 5G services on Straight Path's spectrum still has to be developed and will be different from traditional wireless service, which at least in part accounts for the lower price.
5. Much of Straight Path's value ultimately comes from IDT's bargain basement purchase of bankrupt telecom Winstar at the depths of the 2001 telecom bust. IDT paid $30 million in cash and $12 million in stock for spectrum and other assets once valued at $5 billion -- literally less than a penny to the dollar.
6. Straight Path was under serious pressure if it could not sell itself this year. The company faced a $100 million penalty from the FCC, which charged Straight Path with "squatting" on spectrum -- or failing to meet requirements to put its licenses to use. As it is, Straight Path is on the hook for $15 million and 20% of sale proceeds owed to the FCC.
7. Chairman Howard Jonas controls 71% of the vote, in part through a trust named after Patrick Henry, the famous American patriot who proclaimed "give me liberty or give me death." Jonas holds a significantly smaller financial stake in the company, however, according to FactSet. Jonas made his fortune through selling phone cards and other ventures.
8. Despite its small size, Straight Path has some influence. The board includes two-time Massachusetts Governor William Weld.