Facebook Inc (FB), Zynga Inc (ZNGA), Groupon Inc (GRPN): Are These Companies “Stronger Than Ever”?

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Predicting an IPO can be tricky business, there is no doubt about it. Sequoia partner Roelof Botha said, “If you miss in the first six months of being a public company, you’re in the penalty box for a very long time. If you beat too much, you’re an idiot because you should have forecast higher.” Unfortunately for Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), it has been in the penalty box for just over a year. However, Facebook is not the only company struggling to provide value to its shareholders.

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)

The bad

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)‘s IPO still leaves investors with a bad taste in their mouths, and the company’s stock is still down almost 38% from its initial price. I don’t believe that the company’s business model gives it a durable competitive advantage over other social media sites, but its certainly better than Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA)‘s. Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA) is a company that either succeeds or fails based on its partnerships. It’s not dependent on itself, but rather on others. Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) may actually have the best business model of these three companies, but that doesn’t mean that it has performed well or provided investors with a superb valuation.

All of these companies have experienced pitiful performances in the past year. I would announce a company I thought has done better than the rest, but why? The best performing stock since Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)‘s IPO has been Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) – its “only” down 35%, compared to Facebook and Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA) who have both dropped 38% and 60% respectively.

Young valuations

Typically, investors (including myself) look at metrics such as free cash flow, price-to-earnings ratios, and different types of yields. To be short and sweet, all three of these companies have awful valuations if measured by those metrics.

As an investor, I wouldn’t typically want a company as young as these three to have a boat load of cash. Every company deserves time to grow, and if in this short period of time these companies had already maxed out their markets then I would be disappointed. I do not believe that this is the case now. I want a young company to be spending money with the intention of growth. Both Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA) and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) have free cash flows that are in the negatives, while Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) only has $94 million in its name.

One way to measure this is to examine their capital expenditures (Cap Ex). The cash that the company has will hopefully be spent in this area. If you couple the free cash flow levels with that of Cap Ex, it becomes obvious that these companies are doing just that. From 2010-2012, Facebook’s Cap Ex spending has increased 422%, much less than Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA)’s 572% increase. Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) might be the business to follow in this regard; its Cap Ex spending has increased by 600% and, as previously mentioned, it actually has a free cash flow above 0.

Earnings? Almost non-existent. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is the only one of these three companies to show positive earnings per share.

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