For growth companies in software the main input costs are people and the latest hourly earnings are close to 5% y/y in the US and we suspect that labour costs for programmers are rising faster. This can make it more difficult for technology companies to increase their margins. Making things a bit more troublesome many technology companies have seen their share prices go down and thus share-based compensation has gone down dramatically for many R&D workers in those companies. They could easily ask for more cash compensation to offset the decline which companies, given the tight labour market in the US, probably would have to accept.
Delivery Hero wants to avoid a ‘DocuSign moment’
The fast-growing European food delivery company Delivery Hero with its biggest business activity in Asia and the Middle East announced yesterday that it expects to reach break-even in Q4 this year. However, we have heard this song from many other growth companies over the years such as Uber without never materializing or at least much slower than communicated. We believe the same will for Delivery Hero as cash flows from operations actually deteriorated in the first half of 2021 and competition is fierce on food delivery. If Delivery Hero breaks even it will likely be on some version of an adjusted EBITDA which it not really the key metric that matters for valuation. The key metric is the net operating profit after taxes (NOPAT) and the incremental investments needed to drive revenue growth.
We believe Delivery Hero is signaling a path to break-even by end of this year because the heat is going up for unprofitable growth companies. DocuSign showed in December that it means when you miss against Wall Street’s expectations for higher operating margins. DocuSign was punished massively by investors and many growth companies now that with rising interest rates profitability must be prioritized.
Philips shows the headache in 2022
The Dutch industrial company Philips has unpleasant news for investors today reporting preliminary Q4 revenue of €4.9bn vs est. €5.2bn due to semiconductor shortage and various product recalls. The company also said that port congestions are not making it easier to projects and products. Philips’ woes are a peek into 2022 for many companies in which global supply constraints will act as a drag on revenue growth while potentially impacting operating margins. If these forces are then combined with higher interest rates then these companies could really see their equity value drop hard. Philips shares are down 14% today and down 42% since the recent peak in April 2021.