I want to be clear: Just because I think a stock is a fad doesn’t mean I don’t like the company’s product. At the same time, not every great idea makes for a great company or a great stock.
I have three stocks in mind that I think are destined to crater some day. However, because I don’t know when that day will come, using options might provide investors a way to play these possible apocalyptic scenarios.
LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) seems like it should be a great idea. Yet as I’ve watched this service develop over the years, I’ve determined that it really offers no actual value to anybody … it doesn’t solve a problem. It’s really just a professional version of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), where people can post their work histories. It makes for a nice potential way to network with other professionals, and I’ve tracked down a few folks here and there in my private equity business.
But I’ve never paid a dime for the service. Nor would I miss it if one day it vanished. And to be honest, it seems like a lot of people getting together to form groups from which nothing really productive emerges. LinkedIn seems to end up as an advertising platform for people selling webinars or consultation. And thus, I think the stock is doomed to fail.
Oh yeah, LNKD is also trading at 90 times this year’s EPS, and its net income was a whopping $17 million in the trailing 12 months.
But should you dare short a momentum stock? I wouldn’t. Instead, I would buy puts.
Depending on how much you want to risk, either go with the January 2015 $120 puts for $25, or the $145 puts for $39. That limits your downside in case LNKD rockets, and in two years, you’ll know how you did.
I feel the same way about OpenTable (NASDAQ:OPEN). Nice idea — a centralized reservation website. But I don’t need it. I can call the restaurant.
Meanwhile, net income of $24 million in the TTM somehow makes OpenTable deserving of a $1.25 billion market cap? And a 26x multiple? No way. Hey, I do like that insiders own 18% of the company, but I still don’t see the long-term play here.
What I do like are the January 2015 $55 Puts for $14.10. That gives you two years to wait OpenTable out.
I’m still not a believer in SodaStream (NASDAQ:SODA). Why buy an expensive home item and all the soda-making accessories that go with it and exert all the work involved to make custom soda, when you can buy just about any flavor beverage (soda or otherwise) for next to nothing at the supermarket?
A billion-dollar market cap for a company that might have about $36 million in net profit in 2012? What are investors drinking (pun intended)? I can’t find shares to short, so buying the January 2015 $60 puts for $21 gives you a wide berth if the inevitable earnings disappointment comes around.
The other great thing about these LEAPs is that the stock might crater in the interim, which allows you to sell out while still having time premium left in the option, then you can buy another put after the stock inevitably recovers with a dead-cat bounce powered by permabulls.
As of this writing, Lawrence Meyers did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. He is president of PDL Capital, Inc., which brokers financing, strategic investments, and distressed asset purchases between private equity firms and businesses. He also has written two books and blogs about public policy, journalistic integrity, popular culture, and world affairs. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow his tweets @ichabodscranium.