- LinkedIn had a terrible quarter and now faces new challenges from Facebook.
- New Facebook services seem aimed at taking away the LinkedIn market.
- Why use the "business Facebook" when you can just use Facebook?
Facebook has launched a number of new business services and is making a serious effort to win the business market. LinkedIn, meanwhile, seems to have reached its limit within the initial niche of job recruitment, and education revenues have been slow to appear.
So far LinkedIn stock is down 43% for the year, its market cap briefly falling below $17 billion, as revenues seem to have peaked at around $860 million/quarter and losses have accelerated. The stock crashed early in the year with a loss of $8.43 million, six cents per share, but the company then reported a loss of nearly $46 million, 35 cents per share, and revenue of $861 million for the three months ending in March.
The last result did not crush the stock, partly because it was already down, partly because the company lost 34 cents/share in the same quarter a year ago. But the problems run deeper than that. LinkedIn needs to find another way to make money, beyond executive recruitment. It needs to become a de-facto system for business communication, for internal as well as external recruitment and organization. It will have to spend money to do that, and its resources are stretched thin.
Facebook is now actively marketing a service it calls Facebook for Business which includes a chat bot that is proving useful for customer service. In response LinkedIn is copying a Facebook feature called Instant Articles.
Even if LinkedIn can withstand the charge, the fact of such an enormous adversary has to impact its valuation. Even after falling hard on an earnings miss in February, LinkedIn is still worth $17.3 billion, on $3 billion revenues in 2015. That’s over 5.5 times its revenue, for a company that hasn’t made any money since 2013. It is fine for a fast-growing stock to run well ahead of revenues (I own Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN)) but I like a clear runway – I want to know there isn’t a brick wall in the way of growth.
Facebook is a brick wall. It has a very high Price/Earnings multiple of 72 (LinkedIn has none because it’s not profitable), and you’re paying almost 20 times revenue right now, based on 2015’s $17.9 billion. That run rate rose to $22 billion after the first quarter, but even there the company is fully-valued.
Both these companies, in short, are more than fully valued. I wouldn’t touch either until we get a hard market fall like we got last August or this past January. But when we do, I am buying Facebook. It has a clearer growth runway.