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Thursday, 15 March, 2001, 10:21 GMT
Tech stocks: Is now the time to buy?

A year ago it seemed that a company merely had to put after its name to see its stock market value soar.

Millions got rich quick as the share prices of companies such as Amazon, Yahoo, Vodafone, EToys and QXL soared. Lastminute, the UK's highest profile internet company, floated a year ago where disappointed people were given just over 150 worth of its shares priced at 380p.

But then the bubble burst. Those same Lastminute shares are now worth about 57p. Dozens of other technology firms in the US, Europe and Asia have lost more than 90% of their value.

Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos says that individual investors should steer clear of buying shares in technology firms. But is he right?

Do you think the value of tech firms can go any lower? Is the decline in their stock market value being overdone, in a reversal of the herd mentality which pushed their values so far during the bubble.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

They are generally retailers using a new medium to try to sell a product

Robert C, UK
Being an electronic engineer, it annoys me when dot.coms get called 'technology' companies. They are generally retailers using a new medium to try to sell a product. This use of the internet is generally unproven, and, for example, anyone with an ounce of sense will tell you it is better to buy clothes from a shop where you can try them on, or at least can return them to the friendly neighbourhood catalogue agent. The real technology companies are those who provide the communications infrastructure which makes all this happen. This is here to stay and the demand can only increase.
Robert C, UK

As a small investor I look everyday with dismay at my growing paper loss. But the new economy is the future and it is transforming our life every day. Because of this I can write this message.
Oscar Cousy, Australia

This is just a market adjustment and the small investor is reaping their rewards for buying stock at three times its actual value just to say they have it. Now they are getting what they deserve and we are all paying for it.
L. Strickland, USA

One big bonanza of human greed

Anil Vadgama, Watford, UK
The IT stock boom was one big bonanza of human greed and the chickens have come home to roost. This saga will be repeated a few years done the line
Anil Vadgama, Watford, UK

Tech stocks will undoubtedly make a rebound. Market wisdom holds that you buy low and sell high. So with tech stocks so low, now is the time to buy and sell later when they're high. What goes down must go up.
Jeff, USA

Every time you think the market has reached the bottom, it goes down yet another notch. I don't feel that this is the right time to buy back into techno stocks - there's more blood to be shed yet!!!!!!!!
John Ghosh, England

Internet stocks are like Alice and the looking glass. The only thing worth money is the frame in which it sits.
John Nelhams, UK

The technology sector as it stands has never been so profitable

Simon Eaton, UK
The technology sector as it stands has never been so profitable and what has happened in the past month was inevitable and a result of sheer greed by those with limited direction and little clue of what the real value of the high tech businesses are worth. The truth is we can see the share prices recovering by a noticeable amount within the next month. The new dawn has now broken and shares in new technologies such as General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and Application Service Providers (ASP) will take off.
Simon Eaton, UK

I would wait for a good few months and see how the markets react. The best strategy would be to invest in decent tech/ telecom stocks for the future i.e. Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Vodafone, Orange etc, not the smaller ones liable to go bust.
Nigel Martin, UK

I work in the IT industry - all the Cassandras that wring their hands and predict the long-term failure of dot.coms and e-business are missing a trick. Sure we've seen many failures, but this is only to be expected at the beginning of a new business paradigm. Give the industry time to shake out, and don't assume it's a flash in the pan. The internet is a Pandora's box which we can't - and shouldn't be trying to close.
Kate Lovegrove, UK

History has shown time and time again that the first generation of any new revolution always takes a few hard knocks

Ade Cole, UK
History has shown time and time again that the first generation of any new revolution always takes a few hard knocks. Lessons are learnt, fingers are burnt, but the rebirth goes on. The aircraft and automobile revolutions all saw their fair share of turmoil, but look at the present day aircraft and automobile industries. The 2nd and 3rd generation of the new internet economy will strike back with a vengeance. Patience investors sensible Tech/ internet stock when the bargains are available.
Ade Cole, UK

In 1996, the NASDAQ stood at approximately 1000, and now it is around 2000. That's equivalent to an interest rate of almost 15%, which is a lot better than any cash account. Looking from the long term perspective, buying into a Nasdaq tracker will give you a better rate of return than an FTSE-100 tracker, which has averaged approximately 12% since its inception. The market instability is making a lot of people uneasy, but the long term view is still sound.
Guy Hammond, UK

Now is the time to have cash. Don't touch the sector for at least six months.
Thom, UK

Take a look at the big Crash of '29. Share prices, even in gilt-edged companies collapsed. As the small investors escaped with what they could the big investors, with the odd million or two to spare were snapping up huge chunks of shares in companies that they knew would weather the storm. Result? Within 5 years stocks that had traded as low as 5 cents were hitting 15 dollars and the big investors reaped the benefit. Today of course 5 years is "long-term" and modern investors judge performance in months...
David Coe, Netherlands (expat)

The arrival of cheap and reliable broad-band technology will herald in a new and more stable era of growth in this sector

Andrew Herd, England
The importance of e-commerce and the interweaving of the internet with our everyday existence should not be underestimated. The arrival of cheap and reliable broad-band technology will herald in a new and more stable era of growth in this sector, now surely must be a good time to invest.
Andrew Herd, England

"Is Tech Stock worth buying?" That depends on what you define as "Tech Stocks".... If you are thinking only of internet-related stocks, then the answer is "NO WAY". The failure of these internet businesses is that they had no "offline" capabilities, and therefore lost out when established companies in the same business became "online". However, there are other "High- Tech" stocks that have nothing to do with the Internet. These stocks should have a good number of "good" products that could succeed in the market and bring fruits to their investors. The important lesson here is that the companies that survive and succeed in the end are those that provide real service to real customers, and have real knowledge of the market it is in.
Hiroki, Japan

Being a US based investor who stayed out of the tech market for so long, I ask to those who invested in it....what exactly did you think you were buying when you paid 110x earnings for a company that was just a name?
Lafir Thassim, USA

This is only scene one of a three act collapse.
R B Scheld, UK

Many American companies have gone belly-up due to inexperience and weak assumptions on projected revenue

Noah Smith, United States
The possibilities of increasing efficient co-operation between consumers, manufacturers, vendors and suppliers is a critical point to be considered when debating the future of tech stocks. Although many American companies have gone belly-up due to inexperience and weak assumptions on projected revenue, companies will succeed if they are able to utilise the experience of "bricks and mortar" executives and managers, combined with the daring and technical knowledge of "young guns".
Noah Smith, United States

Only the greedy and stupid will back the so - called new economy tech stocks. The old economy stocks may not be sexy but represent far better value.
Ravi Arora, UK

The purpose of a public company is to make a profit for its share-holders..FULL-STOP! The vast majority of dot com companies never had a single profitable year to date. Is it any surprise now that the bubble has burst? And there is little customer loyalty online, so don't even talk about gaining a large market share, (as some of the excuses made).
Danny Lim, Brunei

Until these people grow up, we are in for far more trouble ahead

Derek Wong, Hong Kong
Living in Hong Kong, which has got one of the most volatile stock markets in the world, I have seen numerous bubbles come and go over the years. Tech stocks can only be considered cheap when they pay a healthy dividend that is equivalent to what you would get in the bank. A survey carried several years ago found that the average American investor expects an average annual return of 31% per year for the next 10 years. Until these people grow up, we are in for far more trouble ahead.
Derek Wong, Hong Kong

Technology is the future whether we like it or not. I would say now is a great time to buy.
Lee, UK

The same rules apply here as with any stock - look at the underlying fundamentals. The concept of no-one investing in high tech is as sheep-like as everyone leaping in. Use your brains!
Mark B, UK

The recent crash in shares can be seen as a good thing. Since not only does it bring business down to more realistic levels, it also flushes the weaker internet companies from the market. Recent reports of "Bricks and Mortar" companies buying dot.coms at rock bottom prices show that there is a wide belief in the internet. After all, it is here to stay! And it is these companies that will ultimately win.
Ben Newby, UK

I wouldn't trust any stock which depends on on-line advertising for revenues. I don't look at the adverts, so why should anyone else? Oh, and I wouldn't trust any UK registered company which is making a profit - it may get stung with a windfall tax!
Clive Mitchell, UK

Whilst the tech market will undoubtedly recover, we must expect a period of consolidation. Many of the 'dot.coms' will disappear, their markets absorbed by major e-players like IBM and EDS. Thus the IPO focussed market will fade away, and the internet will become a commodity, dominated by global companies who can generate economies of scale. In short, good technology isn't enough anymore - it takes solid business sense to succeed.
Mike Easley, UK

The problem here is the old one of greed

Richard Robertson, UK
The problem here is the old one of greed. Without a crystal ball it is normally only possible to make serious profits in equities only over a number of years. Bed and breakfast deals and day trading on high-risk high tech stocks is a fools game and only the feckless and greedy should apply. How do I know this? How do I arrive at this conclusion? I made 4,500 GBP on one share alone last year, greedily waited for it go up and lost all the profit and most of the stake.
Richard Robertson, UK

Unfortunately I am of the opinion that one day we won't have enterprises listed at all. Its a bit of a flash in the evolutionary pan. They will be overtaken by a new breed of integrated e-commerce stock that will have in-built stability from the lessons learned previously. Goodnight lastminute, good morning well-planned.
Mac Walker, UK

I do not believe that the tech sector is in terminal decline. The tech sector has merely done what is termed a 'retracement' and is still going up, if you are a long-run investor. If one understands that the tech sector is merely coming down from levels that resulted from irrational exuberance and rampant speculation, back to levels that are a better depiction of fair value, then you will recognise that the current period is one of unquestionable bargains. To make the analogy clearer, its currently like being in the post-Christmas sales period.
Rahul Mahajan, UK

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See also:

12 Mar 01 | Business
Amazon chief's net stock warning
09 Mar 01 | Business
Nasdaq's year of turmoil
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