Zynga Should Return Huge Amounts of Its Cash to Shareholders

July 2, 2013 by Douglas A. McIntyre

Source: courtesy of Zynga
Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA) has more than $1.2 billion in cash it probably will never use — the fruits of its initial public offering (IPO). Unless the game company plans to make a huge acquisition, that money will rot on the balance sheet of the public corporation, the market value of which has fallen by two-thirds in less than two years. It is time that much of the cash be returned to the shareholders who invested in Zynga as management fumbled its future away.

Zynga’s last, best hope for a turnaround is the appointment of former Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) executive¬†Don Mattrick as chief executive. But Zynga’s prospects are viewed as so dim that even if the company can be repaired, it likely will take several quarters, if not several years. Revenue, active users and bookings plunged in the most recent quarter, and Zynga’s own forecast showed those numbers will not get any better soon. However, even with the battle to be a major player in the online game industry likely lost, Zynga is slightly profitable, and it is unlikely to need more than a tiny fraction of its cash and marketable securities.

The one thing investors should have hoped for as part of the management change was that controlling shareholder and chief product architect Mark Pincus would depart. However, he will not, which means he ultimately controls which games the company fields. His record on that account has been horrendous, and there is no reason to assume that will change as time passes.

The IPO process for several previously hot Web 2.0 corporations assumed that their growth would continue and that the cash from the offerings would be used for either expansion or acquisitions. However, the managements of companies such as Zynga and Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) have been unable to manage the businesses they already have. They have taken money from shareholders that almost certainly will never be used effectively. If it should not go back to those who own the stocks, where should it go? Certainly not to the bunglers.