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We really don’t pay much attention to the E&Y Entrepreneur thingamajigs because, well, it’s boring. Sure, we like entrepreneurs just fine but c’mon. These guys are filthy rich and successful and E&Y gives them trophies? Is this sort of commercial circle jerk really necessary? Regardless of our personal feelings, the awards are a big deal – Jay Leno hosted this year’s event for crissakes – and the Google News feed for E&Y is constantly clogged with stories about people advancing to the next round of voting like some sort of capitalist March Madness.
Anyway, Casa de Turley officially announced this year’s winners over the weekend and Reid Hoffman and Jeff Weiner, founders of
Facebook for Suits LinkedIn, are your entrepreneuriest entrepreneurs.
There are also some winners that you have heard of including Andrew Mason, one of the co-founders of virtual clipfest and increasingly looking insolvent Groupon. As well as Patrick Byrne, the founder of Overstock.com. You know, the guy on the Segway. The guy who Sam Antar can’t help to poke and prod every chance he gets. The guy whose company is being sued by seven California counties thanks to a Walmart sticker. The guy who may have had some weirdo trolling a bunch of bloggers’ Facebook friends. Yes, that Patrick Byrne.
But HEY! not every entrepreneur can be squeaky clean. It’s not like he’s Pete Rose or anything. Unless you count this.
Maybe! The Wall St. Journal reports that the “site isn’t cancelling its initial public offering […] but is reassessing the timing for an IPO on a week by week basis,” because some people have gotten spooked by this big, scary economy. Okay, things are actually pretty frightening out there but Bloomberg’s sources say that the company also “needs time to address regulators’ questions, including possible revisions to a controversial accounting method used in its filing.” But all this – or insolvency, for that matter – isn’t any cause for concern since this just like a couple postponing a wedding. They just need more time. [WSJ, Bloomberg]
Technically, we should say as of June 30, 2011, as the company had $376 million in current assets and $680 million in current liabilities for a negative working capital of $304 million. In accounting terms that’s known as notveryfuckinggood. Henry Blodget doesn’t want to freak anyone out but if things continue as they have been, this could end up being a helluva problem:
Companies can operate with a working capital deficit as long as they have another source of cash to cover the bills as they come due. Right now, Groupon has this source of cash: rapidly growing Groupon sales. As long as Groupon sells enough new Groupons in one quarter to pay all the bills it racked up in the prior quarter, it will not need additional cash. But if the company’s growth stumbles, or if competitive pressure leads to Groupon’s gross profit margin getting squeezed, look out. Under those scenarios, the company may not be able to sell enough new Groupons to pay off its old bills, and then it will face a serious cash crunch.
In a June 2, 2011 SEC filing, Groupon admitted the metric was creative to say the least. “Our use of Adjusted CSOI has limitations as an analytical tool, and you should not consider this measure in isolation or as a substitute for analysis of our results as reported under GAAP,” they said. Some of the die-hard tin foil hat anti-IFRS brigade (I count myself as one of them) might feel the same way about other “alternative,” non-GAAP accounting methods but I digress.
ACSOI did wonders for Groupon’s numbers. It turned a 2010 operating loss of $420,344,000 into a positive $60,553,000, turning Groupon’s luck in its favor to the tune of $481 million. All well and good if investors can actually rely on those statements but didn’t the very idea of ACSOI self-proclaim that it was not to be relied upon? So how the hell did it end up in Groupon’s S-1?
Hence, a furious debate — along with much internal tension — within Groupon about what to do. At first, in another S-1 amendment, the company backed away from using ACSOI as a “valuation metric.”
But that was apparently not enough for the SEC or anyone else, so Groupon’s top managers finally thought it best to rid itself of the term entirely. That will happen next week, sources said.
And, in coming weeks, sources added, the company will be filing additional financial information about both its growth and costs, which will undoubtedly also be put under a microscope by the media, investors and regulators.
Probably good for everyone involved. Things are complicated enough using metrics we all pretty much agree upon, no reason to start pulling accounting tricks out of our hats.
According to Bloomberg, Groupon’s operating income and other accounting
trickery habits are being studied by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, part of a routine review of the site’s IPO. Nothing out of the ordinary there.
But Groupon seems pretty transparent about the unreliability of their methodology. I guess this is to say “don’t rely on this information, we’re kind of making some of these numbers up” so investors can’t say they weren’t warned.
Check out this June 2, 2011 SEC filing:
Our use of Adjusted CSOI has limitations as an analytical tool, and you should not consider this measure in isolation or as a substitute for analysis of our results as reported under GAAP. Some of these limitations are:
• Adjusted CSOI does not reflect the significant cash investments that we currently are making to acquire new subscribers;
• Adjusted CSOI does not reflect the potentially dilutive impact of issuing equity-based compensation to our management team and employees or in connection with acquisitions;
• Adjusted CSOI does not reflect any interest expense or the cash requirements necessary to service interest or principal payments on any indebtedness that we may incur;
• Adjusted CSOI does not reflect any foreign exchange gains and losses;
• Adjusted CSOI does not reflect any tax payments that we might make, which would represent a reduction in cash available to us;
• Adjusted CSOI does not reflect changes in, or cash requirements for, our working capital needs; and
• other companies, including companies in our industry, may calculate Adjusted CSOI differently or may use other financial measures to evaluate their profitability, which reduces the usefulness of it as a comparative measure.
Because of these limitations, Adjusted CSOI should not be considered as a measure of discretionary cash available to us to invest in the growth of our business. When evaluating our performance, you should consider Adjusted CSOI alongside other financial performance measures, including various cash flow metrics, net loss and our other GAAP results.
Better yet, AQPQ explains the math behind ACSOI:
Groupon acknowledges that it is losing money when profits and losses are measured in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). The firm claims, however, that its profits and losses are more meaningfully measured by a metric they call Adjusted Consolidated Segment Operating Income (ACSOI).
How does this number differ from profits and losses that are measured in accordance with GAAP? ACSOI apparently includes all of the revenues, but only some of the expenses, that are recognized by GAAP. By excluding certain significant expenses, Groupon manages to convert its losses into profits.
So what is the SEC going to find? Accounting methods already confessed to by the perps? Big deal.