Vonage Still Cheap, but Will It Grow?


Voice-over-Internet pioneer Vonage has made a substantial comeback after years of underwhelming performance. The company suffered from too much hype in the beginning, only to face tremendous headwinds from technological advancement and space-crowding. It wasn't until early last year that some value-oriented investors began looking at some underlying facts: Vonage is a cash-flow-rich machine with nearly zero debt. While much of the bargain in the stock price has been erased over the past year, let's look at the recent earnings report to see whether Vonage still has room to run.

Earnings recap
Staring with financial performance, the company brought in $34 million in EBITDA -- a $2 million increase over the prior year's number and flat with the previous quarter. Revenue came in at $209 million from $216 million in the year-ago quarter. Disappointing investors, sales were down because of fewer subscribers and lower priced calling plans. The company earned a bottom line of $0.10 per share, up slightly from $0.08 per share in the year-ago quarter.

Vonage managed to slow net line losses from 12,000 in 2012's first quarter to 7,000 in the just-ended one. Churn rates dropped 30 basis points because of, according to management, better customer service and experience. The company is pushing its VOiP services in emerging markets such as Brazil and other Latin American areas, as its low-cost services can be more appealing than a traditional telecom contract for lower income consumers.

Costs were lower and the company improved operating margins, though the overall subscriber-fleeing trend kept this earnings report from leaving a positive impression on investors and analysts.

Outlook and valuation
Vonage will continue to target entry-level plans for developed and emerging markets. Competing with giants such as AT&T and Verizon is a nearly impossible task, but the company is making efforts with products such as the new BasicTalk package -- $9.99 for unlimited domestic calling in the United States.

Mobile is a more compelling growth opportunity for the company. Vonage Mobile has made progress in recent months, recently launching video chat services for iPhone and Android. Of course, this is again an uphill battle with the gorillas in the space -- Apple and Samsung.

Management said it will continue to spend $30 million to $35 million in capex for development and software.

Even with its nearly 60% run-up on stock price over the past 12 months, Vonage still trades for less than 5 times trailing EBITDA. If we annualize this past quarter's EBITDA, the company trades closer to 4.5.

I don't expect subscriber growth to turn around into net gains anytime in the near future; however, the company could do well on mobile platforms in emerging markets. Any decrease in marketing spend would also yield a very cash-flow-heavy company.

Vonage remains an interesting value-oriented play for bargain hunters.

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The article Vonage Still Cheap, but Will It Grow? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Michael Lewis has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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