My last article, How to Profit From a Better World, extols the virtues of conscious capitalism. Conscious capitalism is a guiding belief for certain companies, like Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM), in which these companies minimize their focus on profit maximization and instead focus on increasing value for multiple stakeholders, including employees and customers. The idea is that by maximizing value for all the company’s stakeholders profits will follow and everybody will be better off than before.
The annual 24/7 Wall St. study of the worst places to work for highlights companies that are the antithesis of conscious capitalism. The study uses employee reviews from the career community website Glassdoor to determine how well companies are doing at maximizing the value of the company for their employees. DISH Network Corp. (NASDAQ:DISH) has received the dubious distinction of being named as the worst company to work for the last two years.
Meanest Company in America
24/7 Wall St. report asserts, “DISH’s management is regarded as so inconsiderate to employees, customers, and shareholders that Businessweek recently called it “The Meanest Company In America” and blamed long-time chief Charlie Ergen as the primary cause.” With this level of infamy you would expect that DISH Network Corp. (NASDAQ:DISH) would also be struggling to increase value to investors. So, how is it doing?
The answer right now is surprisingly well. The share price for DISH Network Corp. (NASDAQ:DISH) has increased over 120% during the last three years. The S&P over the same time period rose just over 50%. In effect, Dish Network has trounced the market.
Despite the success of Dish Network’s Hopper DVR I don’t see the company keeping pace in the future. It’s high Price/Earnings (P/E) ratio of 41.7 compares unfavorably with its closest rivals DIRECTV (NASDAQ:DTV), Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable Inc (NYSE:TWC) which have P/E ratios of 13.42, 18.97, and 19.17 respectively. DISH Network Corp. (NASDAQ:DISH) finds itself in in a fierce battle for subscribers with these competitors, but its number of subscribers has plateaued at just over 14 million since 2012. 24/7 Wall St.’s assertion that “the number of customer complaints is large” at Dish Network is probably one of the leading causes for the plateau and also one of the causes for low employee satisfaction with the company. It seems as if major stakeholders such as employees and customers are not being valued by Dish Network and this shortsightedness will eventually catch up with the company if things are not changed.
In addition, DISH Network Corp. (NASDAQ:DISH) is having a difficult time diversifying its business to make up for the plateaued subscriber growth. Its bid to acquire broadband company Clearwire Corporation (NASDAQ:CLWR) recently lost out to a Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S) counterbid. In the process of the bidding war, Dish received pointed criticism from a Delaware Court of Chancery Chancellor for it’s “plan to end-run Sprint’s ability to completely control Clearwire through its majority ownership” while bidding for Clearwire. By rubbing government stakeholders raw Dish’s future attempts at buyouts of other broadband companies like Deutsche Telekom are likely to be bigger sources of friction than they otherwise might have been.
Outside the Box
The intense competition in cable/satellite TV field, and my own poor customer experiences with both satellite and cable providers makes me steer away from investing in the entire industry. However, there are a couple of fringe players that are an attractive alternative to DISH Network Corp. (NASDAQ:DISH) and their direct competitors.
Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) is slowly moving into movie and television distribution through its Amazon Prime program. The beauty of Amazon and its Prime program is that it provides yet another perk for loyal customers of Amazon’s electronic retail and ebook business by bundling free two day shipping, the rental of over 350,000 Kindle titles, along with streaming of 41,000 movie and television titles for $79 a year.
While Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) stock is at the top of its 52 week moving average at $312, it also sports a very optimistic P/E of -1314.83 and an insignificant $0.02 EPS for the most recent quarter. However yearly revenue continues to grow at an amazing pace with sales increasing by 27.1% last year and Amazon is on an impressive hiring binge to serve the increased demand that has caught even President Obama’s attention. In addition, customer satisfaction with Amazon is well above the retail average and 87% of employees approve of the leadership of Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, suggesting that Amazon’s growth, although rapid, may be sustainable due to the nurturing of their important stakeholders, which should also continue to benefit investors.