The Race to Profitability

  • On the Net, the Race to Profitability Is On
  • E-tailing: The Karmic Battle Rages On
  • Ad Firms and Portals: Keeping on Spending
  • Why Cash Offers No Cushion for Depressed Net Stocks

    With the froth of late last year a distant memory, investors in business-to-business e-commerce stocks are starting to make sense of what these companies do. Analysts expect that, as a result, they'll start to make informed choices between software makers such as Commerce One ( CMRC), for instance, and market makers like VerticalNet ( VERT) or PurchasePro ( PPRO).

    Meanwhile, setting up exchanges that merely list product availability and prices is quickly becoming so, well, 1999. The new buzz in B2B hinges on completing transactions online. That could mean accepting online payments, linking separate companies' receiving and shipping departments, or permitting online collaboration on manufacturing projects.

    So B2B isn't just about buying and selling anymore. Or, investors hope, at least it's not just about selling.

    The Race to Profitability
    B2B companies
    Company Positive cash flow?* Cash to get there?^ Cash on hand ($ millions)# Cash remaining (quarters)~ Price/sales ratio+
    1. Ariba (ARBA:Nasdaq) Yes -- 249 N/A 92
    2. i2 Technologies (ITWO:Nasdaq) Yes -- 638 N/A 29
    3. Commerce One (CMRC:Nasdaq) Q2 2000 Yes 97 10 70
    4. VerticalNet (VERT:Nasdaq) Q3 2001 Yes 200 8 57
    5. Agile Software (AGIL:Nasdaq) Q4 2001 Yes 311 119 35
    6. E.piphany (EPNY:Nasdaq) Q4 2001 Yes 425 101 52
    7. PurchasePro (PPRO:Nasdaq) Q4 2001 Yes 136 12 47
    8. webMethods (WEBM:Nasdaq) Q4 2001 ++ 198 ++ 33
    9. FreeMarkets (FMKT:Nasdaq) Q4 2002 Yes 174 15 34
    10. Ventro (VNTR:Nasdaq) 2003 Yes 365** 15 10
    Source: Companies, analysts, Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
    *Positive operating cash flow in most recent quarter. If not, when company and analysts project company will reach that threshold.
    ^At current burn rate, excluding loans, will cash last through cash-flow-positive target?
    #At end of most recent quarter, including short-term investments.
    ~Quarters of cash left at current cash-burn rate.
    +As of May 31.
    **Includes $242.5 million raised in an April 3 debt offering.
    ++Not immediately available; data couldn't be found.