And then there’s Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT). Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform competes directly with Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)’s web services and Rackspace, and having a company with the resources of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) competing with you is never a good thing. Recently Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced that it would match Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) web services prices for commodity services, further pressuring Rackspace’s prices.
It’s hard to bet on Rackspace with both Amazon and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) aggressively slashing prices. Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) has claimed some big customers for its web services, like reddit.com and Yelp, and you can see a full list here. And with Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s price cuts I would expect Azure to grow rapidly as well. It will be very difficult for Rackspace to grow anywhere near its historical rates with the kind of competition its facing.
What were people thinking?
Rackspace stock traded as high as $81 per share at the beginning of this year, then proceeded to plummet to around $45 per share. It recovered slightly to the low $50s, but now it sits just below $40 per share after the Q1 earnings report.
This is a stock that had an EPS of $0.75 in 2012. It was trading at a P/E ratio of over 100 at the beginning of the year, and before this earnings report the P/E ratio was still a staggering 70. Even now, after the big drop, the P/E ratio still sits at around 53. The valuation has gone from being absolutely insane to just marginally insane.
If the company could actually grow earnings at 50% per year for the foreseeable future then maybe these high ratios are justified. But it can’t, and it won’t. Growth will almost certainly slow as the company is faced with well-funded and aggressive competition. Even if EPS could be grown at, say, 20% annually a P/E ratio of 53 is bonkers, let alone a ratio of 100. This is what happens when you pay 100 times or 70 times earnings — you get burned. And if you pay 53 times earnings now you’ll likely get burned again.
The bottom line
When a stock sinks 25% because earnings miss by a penny then it’s likely dramatically overvalued. Rackspace is a fine company with good margins but it has been bid up to outrageous prices. Even after the 25% drop it’s still way too expensive. Rackspace was a ticking time bomb at $80 per share, it was a ticking time bomb at $53 per share, and it’s likely a ticking time bomb at $40 per share. The next time the company disappoints, expect more pain.
The article How to Tell If a Stock Is Overpriced originally appeared on Fool.com is written by Timothy Green.
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