Michael Hiltzik: With his Truth Social stock, Trump may be laughing all the way to the bank -- but his investors have reason to weep

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

It's fair to say that few if any experienced investment professionals expect Trump Media to have staying power as a high-flying stock. I raised the most pertinent issues a few days before the IPO: The company had meager revenues and huge losses. It was to be taken public via a device — a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC — that was often used to circumvent government rules for disclosures to investors.

Trump Media's expected value of $5 billion at the IPO swore at common sense, or at any traditional standard of securities valuation. In short, Trump Media looked like any number of other Trump ventures, such as Trump University — all promise, no delivery.

"It's a scam," Diller told his CNBC interviewers. "Just like everything he's ever been involved in, it's a con."

No one at Truth Social responded to my request for a comment about Diller's remark.

Earlier, I asked whether anyone should believe in the valuation projections, and whether anyone in their right mind would invest. My answers were probably not, and probably not. That was conjecture, not investment advice.

After the IPO, however, more issues were disclosed that contributed to the stock's precipitous slide. The company's first annual report, issued April 1, incorporated an obligatory section on risk factors to be pondered by investors that included the traditional warnings about the costs of competition, the prospects of litigation, and the dangers of technology failures — and a couple that aren't normally seen in corporate disclosures.


One covered the downsides of Trump Media's linkage with Trump — that Truth Social faced "greater risks than typical social media platforms because of ... the involvement of President Trump." Those risks include "harassment of advertisers or content providers, increased risk of hacking of [Truth Social's] platform, lesser need for Truth Social if First Amendment speech is no longer believed to be suppressed by other similar platforms, criticism of Truth Social for its moderation practices, and increased stockholder suits."

The report made clear, if anyone was unaware of this, that the value of its brand "may diminish if the popularity of President Trump were to suffer," as it would from "the death, incarceration, or incapacity of President Trump."

Perhaps more telling was the company's disclosure that it was not planning to "collect, monitor or report" the traditional metrics used by other social media platforms, such as Meta and X (formerly Twitter). Among those performance measures are "average revenue per user, ad impressions and pricing, ... monthly and daily active users" — in other words, all the statistics that tell a social media company who, if anyone, is using it, and what their participation is worth in dollars and cents.

Having that information would only "divert" the company's management, the report said, though it wasn't clear about how management would fashion a strategy for the future if it doesn't know where it is at present, including just how many users it has.


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