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With the holidays in full swing last week, it was easy to miss one noteworthy announcement:
RadioShack wants to rebrand as a crypto company.
You read that right.
The long-bankrupt firm — now owned by Miami-based Retail Ecommerce Ventures — plans to enter crypto by launching a RADIO token and catering to 68-year-old CEOs.
Right about now, you’d probably expect a crypto investor like me to say that buying the upcoming RADIO token is a terrible idea (it is) and that you shouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole (do they come in 15-feet?).
But this is Cryptoland, a place where the worse a token’s description gets, the better chance it seems to have in succeeding.
Radioshack isn’t the only company trying to court millennial investors for money. CEOs from Social Capital’s Chamath Palihapitiya to Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) Elon Musk have dazzled a whole new generation of people looking to get rich. Don’t have enough for a $94,990 car? How about buying $500 worth of fractional shares instead? (The logic also sadly applies to Mr. Palihapitiya’s health insurance company).
Social media savvy CEOs are steering their followers to big gains. That’s the main reason I introduced Asia Broadband (OTCMKTS:AABB) as a crypto play to buy last September amidst an OTC shakeout.
Asia Broadband (AABB)
I first picked out Asia Broadband when prices were at 11 cents. The Las Vegas-based gold mining company had largely given up on its supposed Mexican gold mining operations and was moving into gold-backed cryptocurrency instead.
The firm, of course, had more red flags than a slalom skiing course:
“Most of AABB’s claims are likely exaggerated. The firm’s unaudited financial statements show unusually high profits even in 2018 when prices in the gold industry collapsed And the AABBG cryptocurrency remains unlisted on major aggregators. It’s a company that any traditional investor would write off as a possible pump.”
— Moonshot Investor, September 27, 2021
… but I ended up putting the firm on my “buy” list anyway:
“For Reddit investors seeking a thrill ride, the long-term truth might not matter. When other unknown firms like Hello Pal International (OTCMKTS:HLLPF) can rise 4,500% after announcing cryptocurrency dreams, why wouldn’t companies like AABB do the same?”
The reason was simple: some CEOs are consistently able to drum up investor excitement. And AABB’s past “pivots” highlight a management team willing to do — or say — anything that works.
AABB has since been picked up by users on Stocktwits, a popular investing forum. Prices peaked at 33 cents over the holidays (a 200% gain!) before pulling back to 16 cents. At least we’re still up 45%.
As Reddit investors continue hunting for “the next big thing,” don’t be surprised if AABB makes a second push for $1. The company’s management has played investors before; they will likely do so again.
AMC Entertainment (AMC)
Theater chain CEO Adam Aron has proved himself an expert at playing the meme crowd. And at 67 years old, “Silverback” (as he’s known among retail investors) is exactly the kind of CEO squarely in the crosshairs for RadioShack’s pivot to blockchain.
“We proudly now accept: drumroll, please… Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin. Also Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal. Incredibly, they already account for 14% of our total online transactions!” Mr. Aron tweeted in November. “Dogecoin next.”
Pandering to the masses has been a game-changer for AMC (NYSE:AMC). The company has used its absurdly high share prices to raise $2 billion in fresh capital, pay down debts and beat out GameStop (NYSE:GME) to become the best-performing large stock of 2021. Who would have imagined a firm on the brink of bankruptcy in 2019 could make such a stunning financial comeback?
Of course, not every investor has won the AMC stock game. Those who bought in over the summer would have seen a 62% loss. And even now, AMC’s current $27 price tag still represents a 70x multiple over its estimated free cash flow.
Yet 2022 looks set to become a box-office stunner. Spider-Man’s success will be followed by other safe-bet sequels like Top Gun and Black Panther. And should AMC’s share price falls into the teens, you can bet that Mr. Aron will have a few more tricks up his sleeve to help prices recover.
Bottom line: AABB is a meme stock ready to pop; investors should wait for the $10 to $20 range to start speculating in AMC.
Meme Stocks Without Meme CEOs
On the flip side, companies without marketable CEOs have seen share prices fall straight back to earth. Last week, shares in Bed Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBY) sank to their pre-pandemic (i.e., pre-meme) levels. Its $1.5 billion market capitalization now makes it comparable to non-meme rival Williams-Sonoma (NYSE:WSM) on a forward price-to-earnings basis.
It’s as if the meme stock revolution never happened for BBBY.
Other firms are facing similar fates:
- Context Logic (NASDAQ:WISH). Down 83% since January 2021
- DraftKings (NASDAQ:DKNG). Down 41%
- Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU). Down 31%
- Kodak (NYSE:KODK). Down 42%
In every case, management has failed to grasp the importance of meme investors. Ask the average investment Joe/Jane to name any of their CEOs, and you can expect a blank stare. Their management has also largely avoided raising extra capital to fund growth.
Meanwhile, organizations like GameStop (Ryan Cohen), Tesla (Elon Musk), AMC (Adam Aron) and the Ethereum Foundation (Vitalik Buterin) continue to shine. These star CEOs have turned ordinary ventures into extraordinarily well-funded tech startups.
As 2022 rolls around, investors should expect the pattern to continue. When a single Tweet can sway millions of hearts (and billions of dollars), it’s the social media savvy management teams that will ultimately succeed.
Will RadioShack Rise Again?
In truth, creating a successful cryptocurrency exchange is hard. Not only do you need to get security down perfectly (failing that can quickly turn your website into the next Mt. Gox), but you also need to draw in enough market makers to provide trading liquidity.
It’s the reason why I tend to bet on the incumbents. In an industry that has positive economies of scale, it’s the Ethereums (CCC:ETH-USD), Crypto.com Coins (CCC:CRO-USD), Binance Coins (CCC:BNB-USD) and Terra Lunas (CCC:LUNA-USD) that will win.
For that same reason, I’m bearish about the long-term outlooks of small-time crypto wallets like AABB or RadioShack. These upstarts have neither the talent nor vision of their better-known larger competitors.
Yet, the short and medium-term are always full of surprises. People often forget that Radioshack’s stock rose 100% in 2013 (and at least once more in 2014) before finally succumbing to bankruptcy in 2015. And if you’re willing to bet on the dying breaths of a bygone retailer, there’s no better place to start than with RADIO, a well-timed plug for the modern meme investor.
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On the date of publication, Tom Yeung did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article.
Tom Yeung, CFA, is a registered investment advisor on a mission to bring simplicity to the world of investing.