MicroStrategy Inc. of Vienna is best known for its "data mining" software, which sorts through millions of pieces of information to spot the factual nuggets needed to make business decisions.
But you don't have to be a data miner to recognize the recent rush for MicroStrategy stock, which has surged from $40 a share on Sept. 13 to the $70 level. The shares, traded on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol MSTR, closed yesterday at $69.75 after hitting an all-time high of $71.62 1/2 on Monday.
The rising stock price has been powered in part by the increasingly high profile of company founder Michael Saylor, who has joined the ranks of Internet billionaires thanks to the recent run-up. Saylor made the cover of Fortune magazine's "40 Richest Under 40" issue--which went to press well before the stock hit $70, boosting the value of his 59 percent stake in the company toward $1.5 billion.
Saylor's star in turn helps boost MicroStrategy's image in a business in which marketing and image making can be as important as the product, says analyst David Hilal of Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc.
This is one case, many analysts say, where the product lives up to the image. Sarah Bernstein of Wheat First Union calls the company "the leader on the high end--for anyone with terabyte databases." (A terabyte is a thousand gigabytes.)
Mining the data on MicroStrategy turns up several nuggets that analysts say are contributing to the stock's rise:
* A pilot project with Ameritrade, the online brokerage, to provide customers with daily updates on developments on all the stocks in their portfolio and instant alerts--via e-mail, pager or cell phone--of major moves in their stocks. Just finding key facts for millions of clients is difficult, but the MicroStrategy-Ameritrade project goes further by automatically broadcasting the facts to the customers.
* A $52.5 million deal with NCR Corp., the largest maker of automated teller machines, which will sell MicroStrategy software to its bank clients. Analysts see the transaction boosting MicroStrategy's revenue for the next three quarters.
* The launch of www.strategy.com, a Web site for delivering MicroStrategy's services.
* An agenda of newsmaking events next week: the release of quarterly earnings Monday, an analysts' meeting Tuesday and, on Wednesday and Thursday, MicroStrategy World--a gathering of customers to show how the company's techniques aid electronic commerce.
* The evolution of MicroStrategy from a "decision software" company that simply analyzes data to an electronic-commerce software maker --with all the aura that goes with being an Internet stock.
Much of the stock price increase reflects analysts' judgment that MicroStrategy should be compared with other e-business software companies, whose stocks command higher prices than those of other kinds of software providers, Bernstein said.
Because of that transformation, the Wheat First Union analyst on Monday raised her target price for MicroStrategy from $50 a share to $100.
Friedman Billings also rates the stock a "buy," Hilal said. "After earnings come out, we will reevaluate our price targets," he said.