eMailbag: Top 10 Watch, Prodigy, Security First Changes
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First reader up this week writes:
"Steve, I just stumbled upon your top ten stock picks for 1998 and the numbers are definitely impressive. Do you pick stocks on a more frequent basis (weekly?). When will your list for 1999 come out and where do I go to see any of your picks?"
Reply: The top 10 to watch for 1998, which was up more than 127% (see Archives, September 30) were selected December 31, 1997. The top 10 to watch for 1999 will be chosen December 31, 1998, and every quarter we check in on the group.
That and a HUGE user base (unlike Yahoo! where there are plenty of items but only about 1% have buyers and the buyers rarely pay, my own experience of course) dwarf any attempt at competition. The fact is, Yahoo can't make any money on its auctions if it doesn't start charging. They'll find that people will stop visiting when they notice things not selling, and without the hits, there won't be any advertisers.
E-bay has a system for reporting bad buyers and sellers; on Yahoo you only get to place or take away smiley faces, there's no area for comments, and very little Customer Service for users. Sure, Yahoo has sellers, but they won't get any money from them. E-bay has 100x the sellers, they get money from them, and the sellers (and buyers) are making money and having fun!"
Reply: We're a fan of ebay (NASDAQ:EBAY) for what it's done, the innovation and success of personal auctions. But we also see a potential marketing war ahead that could hurt margins, the same way Onsale (NASDAQ:ONSL), a different type of auction service, posted positive earnings and then slid into losses as it realized the game wasn't over but just beginning.
Security First Bank to SONE
"My favorite company, by far, on the ISDEX has just completed a major reorganization and has changed ticker symbols. Security First Network Bank (SFNB), the Web's First Internet Bank has reorganized into a new software services/holding company called Security First Technologies and changed the symbol to "SONE" (pronounced S-1)."
Reply:Well aware of the switch and have already made the change in ISDEX. Security First's software-only focus is a great move in our opinion since major banks can now look to it as a solution rather than banking competitor. We expect all major banks to have more than 10% of their customers using the Web for banking soon. Eventually, it may be more common an interface than an ATM machine with usage surpassing 30%.
"Steve: Is there a fund for Internet Stocks that you are aware of?"
Reply: There are a few funds that call themselves "Internet" funds but we consider them too heavy in PC stocks to mention by name. Nothing is as close as ISDEX. E-mail Fidelity or Vanguard, let them know if you want an ISDEX mutual fund. We may be interested. We have hundreds of readers who want this.
"Hi Steve, do you know the exact date when Prodigy is going to go public and its ticker symbol?"
Reply: See our report on Prodigy's IPO plans. Planned ticker symbol: PRGY, IPO date not determined yet. Prodigy may have the chance to go public even in a bull in a china shop market. But we don't expect it to be in the value per subscriber level of Earthlink (NASDAQ:ELNK) or Mindspring (NASDAQ:MSPG) right away and could see it debuting between $500 to $750 per subscriber or anywhere from about $325 million to $450 million.