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The Largest Tech IPO of 2018 Is Overhyped
I’ll admit it… I’m one of those people who sings a little too loud (and a little out loud) when my ears are in my head. Especially when Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” comes on.
I can’t help it, the music moves me…much to the chagrin of anyone within listening range.
In fact, most of my iPhone’s memory is dedicated to my playlists. Before I recently expanded my storage, I actually had to delete photos to keep all my music at the touch of my finger.
Now I have enough space… but there is a problem.
I’ve also been known to pay $20 a month to buy songs from Apple. I know, it’s completely unnecessary with today’s streaming technology. But I’m stuck in my ways.
So I recently “unlocked” myself… and joined the popular Swedish-born direct listening service Spotify. And I’m never turning back.
So when Spotify – valued at about $20 billion – announced that it would go public in a unique way in March/April with an IPO, I was fired up. I started combing through the headlines and analysts are already calling it the biggest tech initial public offering (IPO) of 2018. The wait is huge!
But unfortunately, I’m a cynic at heart. Despite my excitement, I had to ask myself… is Spotify stock really worth the hype? So let’s take a detailed look at this IPO today to find out.
A discussion about the musical revolution
In my opinion, Spotify is part of the most important innovation in music since Kurt Cobain discovered ear-splitting feedback and raw, angsty lyrics about teenage angst.
The concept is simple: you stream music over the Internet. It’s free. Or at most a small $9.99 monthly fee. All you need is the Spotify app.
When Spotify launched in October 2008, it was a disruptive, revolutionary idea. That’s why the company pioneered the music streaming market, paving the way for services like Apple Music (Apple’s streaming service that launched much later in 2015).
Spotify is an endless, user-friendly treasure chest.
You listen to what you want, where you want, when you want. The app is compatible with virtually every device I can think of, from computers to smartphones to tablets.
And if that music sounds overwhelming, don’t worry—you can also use its unique music discovery feature to find songs that suit your musical tastes.
The whole platform is a great idea.
Unfortunately, investors like us couldn’t participate in this revolutionary service because the company has been privately owned for the past decade. So now that we’re about to partake in the stock, we need to make sure it’s worth the investment.
The Times is making a difference for a $1.8 trillion industry
The first thing to note is that according to PwC, the global entertainment industry will grow from $1.8 trillion in 2016 to $2.2 trillion by 2021. % forecast made in 2016.
This means old school entertainment is starting to plateau. To fix this, the industry needs to focus on building relationships with customers.
After all, consumers are the kings. When it comes to recordings – film, television, music – we need to define what we want to see, hear and experience. We vote with our time, attention, and a small subscription fee (think Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu).
Just as industries and products like healthcare, cars, refrigerators, thermostats, and more have been revolutionized—see precision medicine and the Internet of Things—so has entertainment.
And this revolution is here. Spotify is just one of the big players.
This is why Spotify has around 140 million active listeners, and 70 million of them pay premium for advanced features. Even better, the service boasts 30 million songs, with more than 20,000 added daily.
It also has over 2 billion playlists created by the company’s growing user base (a great idea that engages customers much more directly), with another 5 million playlists created or edited daily.
This is obviously a huge scope. However, there is a problem…
The problem is money, money, money
Despite all this, Spotify has not found a way to be profitable.
Yes, sales jumped 52% to $3.09 billion in 2016. However, the net loss more than doubled to $568 million. (Although the net adjusted loss is more than $310 million.)
For example, roughly $2.62 billion of that revenue evaporated in cost of goods sold. Another $440 million disappeared from sales and marketing expenses, etc.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were at least $169.2 million negative in 2016, compared with a loss of $180 million the year before. Notice board it mattered.
But we need to see the company generate positive revenue.
Spotify doesn’t. So the numbers raised my eyebrows. With that in mind, I reached out to Paul Mampilly to get his thoughts on Spotify’s public list.
Paul Mampilly talks Spotify stock
Paul is our favorite in all things disruptive technology, so I knew he had some interesting thoughts on this. Here’s what he told me:
Spotify’s public listing is interesting in two ways: First, it’s a non-traditional IPO because it cut Wall Street out of pricing. Instead of making shares available to the general public, Spotify is listing itself directly on the stock market. This means that only institutional investors can access it – so there is no need for banks to set the initial price, connect sellers and buyers, etc. This is what makes initial trading a wild card, as Wall Street’s involvement offers price stabilization for IPOs.
Second, Spotify is still unprofitable even though it has a huge subscriber base. But 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 continues to grow.
So Spotify’s biggest concern is: Will enough people buy into the IPO to be part of it from day one? Because most of the time you have a chance to buy at a lower price. This is because most people play with an IPO on the first day or week and then dump it.
What I’m saying is that people looking 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 you can build your position over time if things look good.
Overall, Spotify is an amazing product with a great model. This can ultimately lead to profitability. But it’s a “wait and see” thing. Don’t get caught up in the hype just yet!
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