$236 million? Bear Stearns, Valuations, and Train Wrecks

Posted on March 17, 2008

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An astonishing train wreck. That’s all that comes to mind in reading about Bear Stearns’ collapse and J.P. Morgan’s purchase of the Wall Street mainstay since 1923.

According to the Wall Street Journal – “J.P. Morgan Rescues Bear Stearns.” “Rescues?” Seems more like Cousin Vinny bailing out the “two youts” somewhere in Alabama after being charged for murder…

Part of me feels like the $236 million price tag might still subject J.P. Morgan to the “winner’s curse,” but seeing that no other bidders were evident, I guess not…

To put the $236 million number into perspective, the latest Bear Stearns balance sheet is showing over $600 million in Plant, Property, and Equipment, so at least J.P. Morgan can have a sidewalk sale to liquidate the remaining office equipment and cover the legal fees associated with the acquisition. And the $236 million would have been pocket change for the LBO equity firm about a year ago.
Or if you started with $200,000 in 1923, earning the market return of 8.66% per year would have yielded you $232 million by now.
The latest venture capital investment-based valuation of Yelp is somewhere around $200 million. So Web 2.0 companies with revenues at $10 million a year are worth more than Bear Stearns in its current state?

When I introduce the concept of fundamental analysis to my finance students at the University of San Francisco, we do an exercise to illustrate the difference between “market value” and “intrinsic value” of a firm. Guess I have a new company to use for next semester’s lecture.


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