Symbol Shuffle!

Other the years, I’ve had to work a bit to keep my stock portfolio up to date, as company’s symbols change. I mean, sure, IBM has traded as IBM since its inception, but not all companies are so lucky… Krispy Kreme started on one of the exchanges as KREM and is now KKD on another. I once owned Mapquest… that was like playing Twister. Mapquest got bought by AOL which merged with Time Warner and then got shoved off as AOL again, and well, I dunno what it trades as today – I unloaded it a while ago, and at a loss at that.

One company that has been fun to follow is a place that I used to work at – it’s been such a strange road that it’s almost like whistle blowing, except it isn’t.

Yeah, it’s not whistle blowing, since all of this is available to the public… if you’re diligent enough in your research.

The company – SmartServ Online – started with the symbol SSOL in 1996, as the company IPO’d. I don’t remember who was the underwriting company, but there was some scandal that left SSOL with no support a couple of weeks after the offering. Whatever the reason, SSOL was kicked into the world at a price of $6 a share and left to survive on its own momentum.

I joined the company a year after the IPO, when it was hovering at about $2/share. During my time there, we had a reverse split, which is something most people haven’t heard of before. In a regular split, your shares are multiplied and the current stock price is divided. In a reverse split, your shares are divided and the current stock price is multiplied. In the case of SSOL’s reverse split, which took place in the late 90’s, it was a 1:6 split. This effectively cut the number of shares available to a 1/6 of their total and made the IPO price jump to $36.

Not too bad, considering that in 1997-2003 the stock had a range of $0.71 to $186. Yes, this stock rode the dotCom pre-bubble, floating bubble and post-bubble train. It was fun to watch. I remember talking to my boss one day in 98 and saying, “Hm… should I go buy a cup of coffee or three shares of stock?” when we were near one of our stock deaths… just after deciding on the cup of coffee, he threw me outta his office.

During this price roller coaster, SSOL was also on a alphabetical ride, mostly thanks to NASDAQ. It was on probation twice, delisted from the NMS market in 1999 and 2003, and relisted in 2000. During those changed there was a .E, .C, .D, and I think a .N all tagged onto the back of the SSOL. There was also a time, while delisted due to new NASDAQ regulations, that it was SSOL.OTCBB for some stock sites: once thrown off the NMS you are put on the “Over The Counter, Bulletin Board” market. Another subtle change the public doesn’t know much about.

After I left in 2003 the entire product line changed and the company, with a new management staff, moved their headquarters from CT to PA. During this move, the new team proposed and executed another 1:6 [reverse] split. This bounced the IPO price up to $216/share, but it would be very, very hard to track that number down: as part of the split there was also another symbol shift, [probably] to mark the change of direction and management in the company. This time, the company started trading as SSRV and was still on the OTCBB.

The interesting thing here is that most of the stock sites that track historical data started this symbol as a new company. And in many ways it was: the company that traded as SSOL had a business model around financial service and was in CT; the company traded as SSRV had a completely different model focused on mobile technology and was in PA. Basically, it had closed one business and started fresh and with a clean financial slate. You had to dig pretty deeply to figure out that SSRV IPO’d as another company – since it’s on the smaller part of the NASDAQ, most of the “free” finance sites aren’t able to keep an eye on all of the companies… as far as they’re concerned, all of the history of SSOL stays with SSOL; SSRV isn’t impacted by it.

All of this was made even more interesting last month, as SmartServ Online changed both its name and its symbol. Again, this seems to be driven from a change in company direction, but jeez, it’s getting harder and harder to keep up news like this… and while trading at $0.20 a share, I’m wondering if another reverse split is coming.

Sorta like playing Scrabble, no?

Update: Hah. MSN Money has actually connected the dots for this whole process; props to them for being able to track all of this down. I mean, check out the 10 year chart, since it showes the proper values after taking the two splits into account. (Since you can’t tell from the chart, the closing price today was $0.15… jeez.)

3 thoughts on “Symbol Shuffle!”

  1. I was searching for SSOL and I came across your site.

    I play the penny pigs so I am very familiar with a reverse split, OTCBB, and the pink sheets. A lot of them are outright scams but if you know that up front and learn to play that game there is some good money to be made trading them. Where else do can you see %500-%1500 gains in one day? Look at the chart for LFZA for example. But learning that game will cost you a bit.

    I am not trying to insult your intelligence here but you mentioned how hard it is to connect the dots on a free site, posts all split information on companies. another way to keep track is if you know the current company name you can look up the CIK number at or its listed on if you look at thier SEC filings. The CIK number never changes and follows the company no matter what they are calling themselves at this time.

    If you are interested in a potential penny pig play take a look at BCIT. It was halted last year because a third party was selling fake stock certificates. Mario Pino was caught for this, he runs several stock scams, PYCT, MLON, and XMET. Selling shares is thier business it seems. any way BCIT almost has this mess straightened out and will resume trading soon. it stopped trading around a penny last year. There is talk of it going to dollars. I have no idea what’s going to happen. It could tank to almost zero or it could rocket. It will be interesting to watch if nothing else.

    Disclaimer: I have a VERY small position in BCIT. I’ve been a bagholder for over a year.

  2. It’s not an insult: most people don’t even know what the pink sheets are much less how a company gets on it. With the symbol change and then name change with SSOL most “mass market” financial sites disconnected the companies and lost the market history that dates back to 1996. But again, part of that is because most sites don’t give you data on the pink sheets.

    For me, I don’t even play in the OTCBB market, in all honesty – NMS for me *g*

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