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The Largest Tech IPO of 2018 Is Overhyped
I admit it… I’m one of those people who sings a little louder (and a little off-key) when I have headphones on. Especially if Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” comes on.
I can’t help it, music makes me…much to the chagrin of anyone within hearing range.
In fact, most of my iPhone’s memory is dedicated to my playlists. Before upgrading my storage recently, I had to delete photos to have all that music at the touch of my finger.
Now, I have plenty of space… but there’s a problem.
I spend over $20 a month buying songs from Apple. I know, it’s completely unnecessary in today’s streaming technology. But I was stuck in my ways.
So recently, I “unstuck myself”… and I joined the popular Swedish-born live-listening service, Spotify. And I will never turn back.
So when Spotify – valued at around $20 billion – announced that it would go public in March/April with a stock offering in a unique way, I was ecstatic. I started studying the headlines and already analysts are calling this the biggest tech initial public offering (IPO) of 2018. Expectations are great!
But, alas, I am a cynic at heart. Despite my excitement, I had to ask myself… is Spotify stock really worth the hype? So today, let’s take a detailed look at this IPO to find out.
Discussion of the musical revolution
In my opinion, Spotify is perhaps one of the most important innovations in music since Kurt Cobain discovered ear-splitting feedback and raw, quirky lyrics about teenage angst.
The concept is simple: you stream music over the Internet. for free. Or, at most, a small $9.99 monthly fee. All you need is the Spotify app to access it all.
When Spotify launched in October 2008, it was a disruptive, revolutionary idea. That’s why the company helped pioneer the music streaming market, paving the way for services like Apple Music (Apple’s streaming service, which went live much later in 2015).
Spotify is an endless, user-friendly treasure trove.
You listen to what you want, where you want, when you want. The app is compatible with every device I can think of, from computers to smartphones to tablets.
And if all that music sounds overwhelming, don’t worry – you can even use its unique music-search feature to find songs that suit your musical tastes.
The whole platform is a grand idea.
Unfortunately, investors like us could not partake in this revolutionary service as the company was privately held for the last decade. So now that we can participate in the stock soon, we need to make sure that it is worth the investment.
Times, that’s changing for a $1.8 trillion industry
The first thing to note is that, according to PwC, the global entertainment industry is expected to grow from $1.8 trillion in 2016 to $2.2 trillion by 2021. That’s great, but it represents compound annual growth of 4.2% – down from the 4.4% forecast in 2016.
This means the old-school entertainment industry is beginning to plateau. To address that, the industry needs to focus on building sustainable relationships with customers.
After all, the customer is king. When it comes to recording – movies, television, music – we have to decide what we want to see, hear and experience. We use our time, our attention, and a small subscription fee (think Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu).
Just as industry and health care, products like cars, refrigerators, thermostats and the like required revolutions – see precision medicine and the Internet of Things – so did entertainment.
And that revolution is here. Spotify is just one of the big players.
That’s why Spotify has about 140 million active listeners, and 70 million of them are paying premium fees for advanced features. Better yet, the service has over 30 million songs and adds 20,000 more every day.
It also has more than 2 billion playlists generated by the company’s growing number of users (a great idea to engage consumers directly), and 5 million more playlists are created or edited daily.
This is obviously a huge reach. However, there is a problem…
The problem: money, money, money
Despite all this, Spotify has not found a way to be profitable.
Yes, sales rose 52% to $3.09 billion in 2016. But the net loss more than doubled to $568 million. (Although the net-adjusted loss is more like $310 million.)
For example, approximately $2.62 billion in revenue evaporated with cost of goods sold. Another $440 million in sales and marketing expenses, etc. Disappeared.
Minimum earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were negative $169.2 million in 2016, versus a loss of $180 million the previous year. Billboard Calculated.
But the company should have a positive income.
Not Spotify. So the numbers raised my eyebrows. With that in mind, I turned to Paul Mampilly to get his thoughts on Spotify’s public listing.
Paul Mampilly talks Spotify stock
Paul is our go-to guy for all things disruptive technology, so I knew he had some interesting thoughts on this. Here is what he told me:
Spotify’s public listing is interesting from two angles: First, it’s a non-traditional IPO because it cuts Wall Street out of price setting. Instead of making shares available to the general public, Spotify will list itself directly on a stock exchange. This means only institutional investors have access – eliminating the need for banks to provide initial pricing, connect sellers and buyers, etc. This is what makes initial trading a wild card because Wall Street’s involvement provides price stabilization for IPOs.
Second, Spotify is still losing money, even though it has a large customer base. However, it’s also a subscription business, which means recurring revenue – and that’s a great model. Plus, like Netflix, it’s a global business, so it can keep growing.
So, the biggest concern for Spotify is: Will enough people buy your IPO from Day 1? Because most of the time you get a chance to buy it for less. Because most people play the IPO for a quick pop in the first day or week and then dump it.
I say people who want to buy the stock as an investment should bide their time, wait to see how the stock trades – and see how Spotify’s business does in a few quarters. Then if things look good you can build your position over time.
Overall, Spotify is an amazing product with a great model. This can ultimately reduce profitability. But this is “wait and see”. Don’t get caught up in all the hype just yet!
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