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MISSION:INTANGIBLE, the blog of the Intangible Asset Finance Society, offers critical comments on intangible asset, corporate reputation, and finance; supplemented by quantitative reputation metrics. Intangible assets include business processes, patents, trademarks; reputations for ethics and integrity; quality, safety, sustainability, security, and resilience; and comprise 70% of the average company's value. MISSION:INTANGIBLE is a registered trademark of the Intangible Asset Finance Society.

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Palm: Worth its IP

Nir Kossovsky - Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Palm, Inc. (NASDAQ:PALM) is on the block. E & Y reported that in 2007, only 30% of the value realized in M&A deals was tangible. While a smart phone is a discrete, countable, physical asset, its value is mainly intangible With the above in mind, what are the prospects for Palm?

Using the 3-element accounting-like framework favored by Society member and Member News Committee chair Mary Adams of Intellectual Capital Advisors, those intangibles are as follows:
1. Human capital – the founders, who left the company in 1998 to start Handspring, maker of the Treo, which Palm then purchased for $240 million in 2003
2. Relationship capital – agreements with cellular carriers (Sprint/Nextel initially) through which most cell phones are sold.
3. Structural capital – the business processes, patents, and methods comprising the innovation activities and marketing activities behind the solution

Using the six-element Roman arch model of reputation value as defined in the Society’s book, Mission: Intangible, the two key intangible asset drivers of reputation value for Palm are innovation and quality. Palm’s reputation is abysmal. According to the Steel City Re Corporate Reputation Index, Palm’s reputation ranking in the Computer Hardware and Peripherals sector has not been above the 33rd percentile for the past 16 months. This ~60-member sector, which includes the monotonously #1 ranked Apple, Inc., recently saw Palm drop to the 4th percentile.

Reputation is important because among other things, it confers pricing power. It is not surprising, therefore, that Palm’s two current carriers, Sprint and Verizon, heavily discount Palm’s phones. And even in the face of these discounts, Palm’s global share of smart phones has declined from a peak of 4% in 2004 to only 1.5% in 2009.

Cutting to the chase, Shaw Wu of the Kaufman Brother’s equity research firm opines, according to the Wall Street Journal, that “the company should be worth at least the $600 million to $700 million it has spent on research and marketing…” Valuing a company based on expenses related to innovation and building a brand? That’s intangible asset finance at its best!

Act on your intellectual curiosity!

If the above discussion piques your interest, here are several things you can do right now:

1. Register free of charge for the next IAFS Mission Intangible Monthly Briefing set for Friday 7 May. The conversation will feature Scott Childers from Walt Disney and Bob Rittereiser from Zhi Verden on “Process-driven reputation risk in supply chains”
2. Purchase the book, Mission: Intangible. Managing risk and reputation to create enterprise value, at the IAFS Store (or any online book retailer) 
3. Become a member of the Intangible Asset Finance Society.
4. Join our community on Linked-In.

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