Here’s an exercise for you. How much would you pay for $100 million per year of operating cash flow and maybe $1.4 billion in sales, growing at about 20% per year? Would you pay 10 times that revenue? Maybe 20 times that revenue? Certainly, you wouldn’t pay 30 times that revenue. But that’s almost precisely what investors are being asked to pay today for stock in Shopify (NYSE:SHOP), the Canadian e-commerce software house.
Shopify’s market cap is $39.8 billion, about 29.5 times its estimated 2019 revenue, based on the $680 million that came in for the first two quarters. Please let’s not talk about earnings. There aren’t any.
So without any earnings, why the insane valuation? It’s because of one magic word.
The Magic Word is ‘Amazon’
Shopify is said to be competing directly with Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).
How does a Canadian company with $380 million in sales for its most recent quarter compete with an e-commerce and cloud giant that earned $2.6 billion on revenue of $63.4 billion in its most recent quarter?
Here’s how The Observer put it just last month: “Shopify Overtakes eBay as Second Biggest Shopping Site After Amazon.”
How exactly has Shopify overtaken eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY)? The Financial Times notes that Shopify’s market cap is now bigger than that of eBay. The market cap of eBay is $32.5 billion.
But does this make Shopify bigger than eBay? It doesn’t. Revenue for eBay in the second quarter was $2.7 billion. That’s seven times more than Shopify brought in. Also, eBay had earnings of $403 million in its second quarter, or 46 cents per share.
Is SHOP Stock a Bargain?
What’s even crazier is that we’re supposed to consider Shopify a bargain now because the shares recently pulled back from their all-time high of $406, achieved in late August. This came after it priced a secondary offering of stock at $317.60 to help strengthen its balance sheet.
Shopify needs to strengthen the balance sheet to pay $450 million for 6 River Systems, which makes robotic carts for warehouses. This will be added to the Shopify Fulfillment Network, announced in June, which mainly consists of a web page and a lot of promises.
6 River Systems had just gone through a $25 million Series B funding round. The robots, dubbed Chuck, are the size of a big shopping cart and lead workers around the warehouse, rather than following them.
You Don’t Have to Believe Me
What about my track record? I’ve been calling Shopify a bubble stock for almost two years, since it was trading in the mid-$70 range. In June I called the shares “my favorite mistake,” claiming it was rising on a short squeeze. At the time, 28% of its shares were being held by shorts. The most recent percentage, according to Fintel, is 31%. By way of comparison, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) has a short interest of 20%.
The Bottom Line on Shopify Stock
The bottom line here is that I’ve been consistently wrong on Shopify, and I might be wrong again.
A few of InvestorPlace’s writers are starting to get out their oxygen masks in the thin air and lean my way. Josh Enomoto says “don’t let the red ink tempt you.” Brad Moon says it’s “time to be cautious.”
You can’t make money on the stock you don’t buy. I missed Shopify on the way up.
I’m content to miss it on the way down, too.
Dana Blankenhorn is a financial and technology journalist. He is the author of the environmental story, Bridget O’Flynn and the Bear, available at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn. As of this writing he owned shares in AMZN.