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The Snowflake IPO was an impressive show, so much so that it's allegedly the first IPO Warren Buffett's bought into since Dwight D. Eisenhower lived in the White House and Ford Motor Co. started trading in 1956.
Talk about historic…
Snowflake Inc. (NYSE: SNOW)'s stock more than doubled at its debut, making it the richest, biggest company ever to pull that off. Shares started trading at $245 per share – more than double the $120 IPO price and far above the price Wall Street was expecting (and that expectation had already been raised several times).
Now, the stock did dip to $220 on Thursday, only to climb back up to $233 mid-day Friday, but that dip hasn't stopped it from being a historic IPO. The debut left Snowflake with a value of around $70 billion.
More to the point, that dip also hasn't stopped a small group of insiders, underwriters, and pre-IPO investors from boosting their net worth with the Snowflake deal. Warren Buffett alone is thought to have banked around $800 million, for instance.
Regular investors are looking at a different situation, though…
Most Investors Get Table Scraps from These Mega-IPOs
So the Snowflake IPO is significant, alright. As in, I think it probably signifies the top of the market.
Call Snowflake "frothy," and you're understating it. Its price relative to actual earnings makes it one of the most, if not the most, expensive stocks on the market. The $70 billion-odd company (whose shares are now going for $227 apiece after falling double digits), sports a negative trailing 12-month EPS, -1.3 to put a point on it.
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Shares are trading at around 100 times sales, not profits. That's a big red flag. If that's not expensive, I don't know what is.
When the market rolls over, and there are signs that it will roll over before long, frothy, "high-growth" stocks like Snowflake are going to be the first up against the wall.
That said, there's expensive, and then there's expensive. It's really important that investors understand the difference, especially now that the price/earnings ratio of the entire S&P 500 is "frothy," and pushing 30.
Wall Street's perpetually-in-overdrive hype machine usually does its best to obscure the difference between a good company that happens to cost a lot in dollar terms and a troubled company that might not cost as much as good ones.
It's easier to see the real picture than you might think.
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Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) costs more than three grand a share – a lot of money for most people – but it's a strong company in position to get even stronger. It reported more than $11 billion in net income in 2019, and that figure is artificially low; Amazon loves to make the savvy move of reinvesting profits to enable growth down the line. So, compared to where AMZN's price could or maybe even should be next year, you could argue $3,000 is on the cheap side.
Snowflake is not Amazon. As I said, it goes for $227 a share, but it lost nearly $350 million last year. If a stock's price is a claim on earnings, that's really expensive. Yet, at the end of the first day of trading, it was more "valuable" than General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and Dell Technologies Inc. (NYSE: DELL). Internet forums were packed with regular retail investors desperate to get a piece.
But one of the dirty little secrets about the "hot" IPOs investors are desperate to get into is they're not for regular investors. IPOs are there for insiders, underwriters, and "early" investors who got in at ridiculously low prices to get paid.
Sure, if by some miracle a regular investor managed to get filled on Snowflake's first day, they'd have had the chance the make at least some money, but more than likely they lost out when the price started to sink.
Regular investors ought to wait for a profitable quarter or two before thinking about heading in. That's something we just haven't seen yet from Snowflake. Maybe someday we will; the Cloud where Snowflake operates is high up on the list of moneymaking trends.
But that day isn't today.
The Real Snowflake Payday Is Coming Soon
If you have some Snowflake shares, take the money and run. If, like me, you're anxious to get short on Snowflake, just be a little patient. I'll tell you why…
The Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) – where the best, most liquid options trade – has, big surprise, rules for optionable stocks:
- The underlying security must be properly registered.
- It must have at least 7 million shares on the market.
- The company must have at least 2,000 shareholders.
- Trading volume (wherever the stock is traded) must equal or exceed 2.4 million shares over the past 12 months.
- The price of the stock must be above $3 or $7.50, depending on the type of security, for at least three business days.
That last one is the problem. Options on SNOW aren't available yet, and they won't be for at least three business days following the IPO, which would mean Monday, Sept. 21, is the earliest possible date for trading options.
My SCAN algorithm is chomping at the bit to recommend SNOW puts, and we're almost there, but not quite yet.
This stock is mighty high on my watch list for short-side profits when the time comes (and that time is really soon). You can click here to learn how you can be on the list to get my SCAN alerts and research recommendations.
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About the Author
Andrew Keene, editor of the 1450 Club, Super Options, and Project 303 at Money Map Press, is a globally known trader and a renowned expert on all things options.