A Rude Awakening: Internet Shakeout in 2000
- Cite this article as:
- Demers, E. & Lev, B. Review of Accounting Studies (2001) 6: 331. doi:10.1023/A:1011675227890
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This study explores various value-drivers of business-to-consumer (“B2C”) Internet companies' share prices both before and after the market correction in the spring of 2000. Although many market observers had predicted that the shakeout would eventually occur (e.g., Perkins and Perkins 1999), the ultimate and previously unanswered challenge lay identifying which stocks would fall and which ones would survive the shakeout. We develop an empirical valuation model and provide evidence that the Internet stocks that this model suggests were relatively over-valued prior to the Internet stock market correction experienced relatively larger drops in their price-to-sales ratios when the shakeout occurred. This result is robust to the inclusion of competing explanatory variables suggested by the economics literature related to industry rationalizations.
We examine the ability of a valuation model comprised of both financial (accounting) variables and nonfinancial web traffic metrics to explain Internet companies' market values during each of 1999 and 2000. Our findings suggest that the reach and stickiness web traffic performance measures are value-relevant to the share prices of Internet companies in each of 1999 and 2000. Our findings of significance for the year 2000 contradict the recent claims of some analysts that web traffic measures are no longer important. We also explore the valuation role of our proxy for B2C companies' current rate of “cash burn” and find that this proxy is a significant value-driver in each of 1999 and 2000, but with differential valuation implications for each period. Our results suggest that the market was favorably disposed towards Internet companies' aggressive cash expenditures in 1999, but appeared to adopt a more critical view of Internet companies' cash burn rates in 2000. Our results further suggest that investors adopted a more skeptical attitude towards expenditures on intangible investments as the Internet sector began to mature. We find that investors appear to implicitly capitalize product development (R&D) and advertising expenses (customer acquisition costs) during the earlier period when the market was more optimistic about the prospects of B2C companies. However, only product development costs are implicitly capitalized into value, on average, subsequent to the shakeout in the spring of 2000. Finally, we provide statistical evidence to support the conjecture that different parameter vectors characterize the estimated market valuation models for each of 1999 and 2000. Overall, our study provides a preliminary view of the shakeout and maturation of one of the most important New Economy industries to emerge to date–the Internet.