Lycos is one of the leading European based general portals, with 31m unique internet users a month; a “European yahoo” whose American arm was sold to Asian premier portal www.daum.net. Lycos has released 2006 results, which are sobering when compared to Lycos’ american counterparts. Christopher Mohn, Lycos CEO, is eager to emphasize his first net profit ever, EUR 1.7 million. Unfortunately, this pales against Yahoo’s EUR 577m and Google’s EUR 2,366 million.
More worrying is Lycos Europe’s inability to stem its cash drain. Lycos was Europe’s most successful IPO in 1999, raising EUR 1.6 billion in cash. The cash reserves are now under EUR 100m, in spite of the sale of Lycos-America and the Swedish Spray network.
The market versus book value ratio for Lycos-Europe has hovered around 1.3 for four years now. Though market valuation of the company is now above its liquidation value (market/book ratio of less than one), the market still signals skepticism as to Lycos’ future.
Lycos’ board keeps the faith though, not stepping back into an exclusively cost reduction strategy. Spend on research and business development has remained strong over the last four years, in spite of their effect on cash reserves.
Company management can easily fall into an exclusively cost reduction strategy, specially when the innovation drive and talent is gone. I think of it as leaning back when skiing an excessively fast downhill – lethal. Keep a balanced lean, and repeat the mantra it is never too late, it is never too late.
Fortunately for Lycos shareholders, the board has retained some of the original founders who have domain knowledge enough to be creative, and innovate new defensible revenue streams. Lycos’ new revenue streams includes its shopping channel notably, Pangora, which they have white branded across Europe.