A big story happened to a small-cap company recently, when Comscore (SCOR) CEO Byran Wiener and President Sara Hofstetter suddenly announced their departure from the firm. A flurry of sell-side reports followed, largely positive, reiterating their optimistic view on the company.
The logic of some of these reports was, to be frank, tortured. And understanding why this tortured logic was prevalent can tell you a lot about how Wall Street and corporate management work.
First, some context. Comscore has seen its stock fall over 60% from its peak in 2015, and shares have remained below their IPO level for most of the company’s life being public. While it hasn’t crashed and burned like some smaller cap tech companies, its failure to show growth and the relative weakness of its products versus competitors has been a source of ongoing frustration. The company’s board of directors responded with a streamlining plan at the end of 2018 that saw its multiple products consolidated into four divisions, to which the market was mostly sanguine.
Wiener and Hofstetter, however, were not. The two resigned largely, according to reports, because they wanted to focus on expansion and investing more aggressively in high-growth products regardless of short-term profitability. This “grow-into-profit” strategy of theirs had been seen as a source of strength among analysts, who in the past often cited the vision of the two executives as a reason for bullishness.
Now that those analysts are gone and the stock fell 30% on the news, however, the sell-side response has looked very different. Some reports have doubled down on their bullishness, arguing that the departure will offer new executives an opportunity to focus on growth with the newly consolidated business lines.
This seems a bit contradictory; is Comscore expanding or contracting? What exactly does the consolidation of its many products into four business lines mean for its growth plans? Why exactly did management leave?
These are the questions analysts and investors alike should be asking, and it’s also the questions that sell-side analysts should be answering. This is a rare opportunity to analyze the analysis Wall Street is providing to determine what is robust and what is mere chatter.