Market Mad House

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

Market Insanity

Is Expedia Making Money?

If you have been watching the news lately, you might have noticed that Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE) CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has been tapped to clean up the mess at Uber. That got me to wondering does Expedia make money and if so, can he repeat the performance at Uber?

Expedia sort of makes money but not as much as it used to. Back in June 2015, Expedia’s net income reached $816.82 million; that fell to $193.74 million in June 2016 and rose back to $329.36 million in June 2017. It looks as if Expedia is struggling to maintain what little income it can generate.

Despite the income struggles Expedia has reported steadily growing revenues for some time. The revenues were $6.104 billion in June 2015; they rose to $7.736 billion in June 2016, and $9.449 billion in June 2017. It looks as if Mr. Khosrowshahi is very good at growing business, not making more money. One has to wonder how that would help Uber which burns through cash like crazy.

Can Expedia Make Money?

Despite the low income, there are some good things at Expedia. For example, there was $3.781 billion in cash and short-term investments on June 30, 2017.

Dara Khosrowshahi

That’s a sign of a lot of float, and that float is growing. Expedia reported having $2.335 billion in the bank in June 2016; that means Khosrowshahi can generate float, which might be what Uber needs.

Expedia also reported $18.62 billion in assets and $2.204 billion in cash from operations on June 30, 2017. Cash from operations has increased significantly over the past year rising from $1.432 billion to $2.204 billion June 2016 and the same month in 2017.

Is Expedia a Good Investment?

Therefore, Expedia is making money, but it is not a value investment because of a ridiculously overpriced stock. It was trading at $143.62 a share on September 15, 2017. That gave the company a market capitalization of $21.78 billion and an enterprise value of $22.78 billion on September 15, 2017.

Investors also received a 30¢ dividend on August 22, 2017, which does not justify the stock price. Although it shows that Khosrowshahi is capable of running a regular company.

That makes Expedia a pretty lousy investment though it has a lot of float. Mr. Khosrowshahi has made it a moneymaking enterprise but not a good investment.

Can Khosrowshahi Save Uber from Itself?

The $200 million question here: is can Khosrowshahi save Uber from itself? The ride-sharing company’s ethical, legal, moral and public-relations crises are vast and now threatening its very existence.

Expedia is no comparison because it is a very different business. Expedia sells hotel and airline tickets. Uber sells rides in vehicles and delivery services. Expedia’s products come from well-established companies with strong brands. Uber works with independent contractors.

An interesting possibility will be that Khosrowshahi tries to change Uber’s business model to one of working with well-established brands. Perhaps delivering products from big retailers such as Walmart and Kroger, with which Uber has established relationships.

Another possibility is that he will try to establish relationships between Uber and established travel companies such as hotels and airlines. Adding Uber services to Expedia would also make a lot of sense. Since Khosrowshahi has a reputation as a dealmaker such alliances are a strong possibility.

Can anybody Clean Up Uber?

Deal-making will have to wait because first Khosrowshahi will have to deal with the ethical and legal mess at the company. After all, Uber is under investigation by the FBI which is not a good start to any tenure as boss.

Although Khosrowshahi can bring some attributes that Uber desperately needs to the corner office. Those qualities include ethics and maturity.

“Dara is a very focused, disciplined adult,” Henry Harteveldt; a travel industry analyst with Atmosphere Research Group told Reuters. “He’s not a tech bro.”

Part of Uber’s problem is that the Silicon Valley ethos and sensibility do not translate will into the real world. The tactics that can help you attract hits to a website can get you into trouble with regulators fast. The “winner takes all” attitude that helps you build market share will simply make enemies at city hall.

Like Hercules, Dara has his work cut out for him because Uber might be far messier than the Augean Stables. One of the Ancient Greek strongman and Avenger’s famed Seven Labors was to clean out the infamously filthy stables.

Beyond that Khosrowshahi can always help Uber by simply making the best deal for its sale. Either way, somebody needs to do something because Uber is an interesting company with a good service; which has a lot of capacity to help people. If the right leadership can be found, hopefully, Dara will provide it.

Meanwhile, stay away from Expedia stock it’s overpriced and shows little potential for making serious money. Instead watch Uber and if see if Dara Khosrowshahi can do the impossible and turn it in a profitable and effective company.