Taking Stock: BBBB is a clever sham

By Malcolm Berko

Dear Mr. Berko:

My money manager recently bought 400 shares of Blackboard, Inc. at $44.33. Please tell me what you know about the company and whether this is a good stock for me.

WW in Troy, Mich.

Dear WW:

Thank you for your lengthy letter, which I shortened by omitting the full spelling of your two-syllable family name.

I hope you understand that without having access to your personal goals, income statement and balance sheet, I can’t even tell you if a CD would be a suitable investment.

But I can tell you that Blackboard, Inc. (BBBB-$46.01) is a clever sham designed for our school systems and paid for with our tax dollars.

Last year, BBBB generated $500 million in revenues providing web-based Course Delivery “Modules,” Community Engagement “Modules,” Content Management “Modules” and Outcomes Assessment “Modules.”

Now, when students get frazzled, they enter the appropriate module, turn on the TV, microwave a pizza and chill out with a Coke or a joint. Expialidocious idea! 

BBBB also offers “Blackboard Transact” for off-campus commerce management, online e-commerce and payment management, vending and laundry services, copy and print management, student and staff administration and video control surveillance.

 Then there’s “Blackboard Connect,” which provides communications (voice, video, text and e-mail) systems.

And there’s “Blackboard Mobile,” which delivers campus life services to students, parents and faculty.

There’s also “Blackboard Student Services,” which provides student life-cycle management; “Blackboard Analytics,” which provides platform data models, metrics and dashboards; and finally,"Blackboard Collaborate,” which provides a platform for “synchronous learning.” 

BBBB offers all this hocus-pocus crap to our public schools, and the taxpayer offers all the money.

I can’t imagine how I ever got through school without a BBBB application to butter my toast, wipe my ... um ... nose, select my courses or coordinate my social life.

Thanks to BBBB and a gleeful host of similar competitors slurping at the public purse, it’s clear to me why our K-12 schools and colleges are so efficient and productive.

But gee whiz Willy Wonka, it seems that investors who have been buying the stock may be the same folks whose learning skills were molded by BBBB.

They believe this package of persiflage should trade in the high $50s and that earnings will zoom well over $2 next year.

And they are probably right as a trivet considering the moronism (not the teachers) of the administrators who run our schools.

So barring any political, social, financial or public relations missteps, BBBB’s path to profitability is assured by the bureaucracy and naivete of the system in which it operates. 

The company has a good balance sheet. Its 1.78 percent net profit margins are low, but that number will improve as BBBB continues to raise its prices each year.

Revenue growth, aided by acquisitions, should increase sales by 12 percent to 15 percent annually over the coming few years; however, organic growth may decline.

Meanwhile, other important operating margins will begin to improve as BBBB gains operating scale by selling multiple products to its fawning client base.

BBBB may head higher until the selected vested interests who promoted Blackboard’s sophomoric applications become multiple millionaires.

Then BBBB will collapse when the public realizes it’s been paying for an oinking herd of pigs in a poke.

But I applaud management’s ability to hoodwink the educational system and convince fictile educators they’re getting value.

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Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775 or e-mail him at mjberko@yahoo.com. Visit Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

© 2011 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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