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Flowery prose
Are shares of and FTD, which is going public this week, worth a look?
February 9, 2005: 4:25 PM EST
By Paul R. La Monica, CNN/Money senior writer

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Dead flowers: Shares of have been a poor performer for the past 12 months.
Dead flowers: Shares of have been a poor performer for the past 12 months.
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Tiptoeing through the financial statements is bigger and has a stronger balance sheet. But FTD Group is more profitable.
Revenues†$327.6 million†$190.3 million†
Operating income†$9.8 million†$22.4 million†
Net income†$6.0 million†$7.7 million†
Cash and investments†$109.6 million†$26.7 million†
Long-term debt†$4.6 million†$258.5 million†
†* data for six months ending 12/31/04
†Source:††Company filings

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) Ė Clueless guy alert: There are only six days left until Valentine's Day.

If you're in a bind, there's still time to do the easy thing and go buy some flowers or chocolate for your sweetie from a Web site like or

But are shares of, or's parent FTD Group, which is tentatively scheduled to go public this week (nice timing), worth buying as well?

Let's start with (Research). Lately, the stock has wilted -- I couldn't resist -- falling about 8 percent so far this year due to a weak fiscal second quarter report.

But this pullback might make it a decent buying opportunity. Edward Weller, an analyst with ThinkEquity Partners, said that the negative opinion surrounding the stock is a bit overdone.

No tulip mania here

At 28 times earnings estimates for its next fiscal year, which ends in June 2006, shares of are trading at a reasonable valuation, considering that analysts are expecting earnings to increase at about a 28 percent clip annually for the next five years.

Sure, there are several risks., as its name suggests, is not a pure play online retailer. Slightly less than half of the company's total sales were generated online during the six months that ended in December with most of the remainder coming from sales over the phone. And the phone portion of the business is far less profitable.

In addition, the company has stepped up its marketing expenses lately, hurting profitability. Earnings for this fiscal year, which ends in June, are expected to fall 37 percent before bouncing back 45 percent next year.

Jeffrey Stein, an analyst with Keybanc Capital Markets, thinks this strategy could fuel sales growth.

"The company has ramped up the level of advertising in order to accelerate the top line," Stein said. "But if it can achieve a goal of 10 percent sales growth for the second half of this fiscal year, that would be a catalyst to move the stock higher."

Analysts currently expect to post an 11 percent year-over-year sales increase in its fiscal third quarter and a 10 percent gain in the fourth quarter.

Stein added that the company's growth prospects outside of the floral market are relatively strong as well. bought specialty food gift retailer the Popcorn Factory in 2002 and recently purchased the Wine Tasting Network.

The company is in a good position to make more acquisitions, too. It has about $110 million in cash on its balance sheet and just $4.6 million in long-term debt. This, Weller wrote in a recent note, is key to the company's future success.

"Potential acquisitions, acquisitions which, if as well managed as previous acquisitions, ought to contribute to growth of operating assets in coming years," wrote Weller.

Every rose has its thorn and FTD's is debt

FTD Group is a slightly different animal. Investors might remember the company's first attempt at going public in 1999. At the time, the company's corporate name was and it was unprofitable.

The company was subsequently bought by private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners last year and taken private. FTD Group is tentatively set to price its new offering on Wednesday and is planning to sell 13.1 million shares at a range of $12 to $14 a share.

Now, FTD Group might actually be the steadier of the two brand-name floral plays. That's because the company generates about half of its sales to florists as opposed to going exclusively to the consumer.

"FTD has more of a hybrid business model," said Stein, who followed FTD during its first go-around on Wall Street. "It's a more mature business that grows at a slower rate but it is more profitable."

To that end, FTD had operating margins of 11.8 percent and net margins of 4 percent in the six months that ended in December. By way of comparison, had operating margins of just 3 percent and net margins of only 1.8 percent.

Still, investors need to be forewarned. There's one aspect of FTD Group's financials that doesn't come up smelling like roses. FTD Group was leveraged up when it was taken private. The company has $258.5 million in long-term debt on its balance sheet.

Analysts quoted in this story do not own shares of the companies mentioned and their firms have no investment banking ties to the companies.

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Written by: Paul R. La Monica
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