4. Research In Motion
RIM once owned the smartphone market. Its BlackBerry products were used largely by businesses. It is hardly worth repeating the story of how RIM was late to the consumer market, where it has been pounded relentlessly by Apple and an army of Google Android phones from manufacturers as diverse as Taiwan’s HTC, South Korea’s Samsung and Motorola in the U.S. The pace at which the company fell apart once the process began was even more extraordinary than its rise. Revenue and net income jumped from $6 billion and $1.3 billion, respectively, in fiscal 2008 to $20 billion and $3.4 billion in fiscal 2011. In just the past year, however, the company has warned twice that it would miss its earnings forecast, replaced its long-time CEO, warned a third time about its first-quarter loss, and disclosed plans for layoffs of thousands of employees. The company’s board said it was reviewing “strategic options,” which would include a sale. The best measurement of the swiftness of RIM’s fall is the change of its share of the U.S. smartphone market. Research group NPD recently reported that RIM’s U.S. market share was 44% in 2009 but only 10% last year. Data from research group Comscore shows that share has fallen further this year. The net effect on RIM’s stock price has been devastating, taking it down from $144 four years ago to $11 recently. RIM cannot survive as a standalone operation in the face of these trends. The Wall Street Journal recently reported “outright buyers could include Asian handset makers like HTC Corp or online retailer Amazon.com Inc. which has jumped into the tablet business.”
[More from 24/7 Wall St.: Eight States Slashing Local Funding]
5. Pacific Sunwear
Pacific Sunwear built its reputation offering “California-style” accessories, primarily sunglasses, shoes and swimwear. The company was started in a surf shop in Newport Beach in 1980. Recently, highly regarded corporate balance sheet and earnings research firm GMI Ratings put Pacific Sunwear of California on its list of companies at risk of going bankrupt. That should come as no surprise. Five years ago, the company’s stock traded for $23. Recently, it dropped to $1.50. In its most recent reported quarter, Pacific Sunwear lost $15 million on revenue of $174 million. The retailer’s cash and cash equivalents dropped to $22 million from $50 million at the end of the previous quarter. Pacific Sunwear management said the company would have a non-GAAP net loss in the current quarter as well. Pacific Sunwear also disclosed it had a new line of credit with Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC). Its comments about the loan in its latest 10-Q were telling: “if we were to experience same-store sales declines similar to those which occurred in fiscal 2010 and 2009, we may be required to access most, if not all, of the New Credit Facility and potentially require other sources of financing to fund our operations, which might not be available.” Why is the company in so much trouble? It is too small and is in a commoditized business. Nearly every major department store chain sells products similar to those Pacific Sunwear offers, and so do many niche retailers. Pacific Sunwear, meanwhile, has only 729 small stores. What will happen to the retailer? It could be bought by a larger company — its market cap is only $108 million — or it may go out of business with its inventory sold to other retailers.
American Suzuki Motor sold 10,695 cars and light trucks in the first five months of this year. That was down 3.9% compared with the same period in 2011. The sales gave the manufacturer a U.S. market share of just 0.2%. One reason the company has trouble moving its vehicles is the poor reputation of its cars. In the 2012 JD Power survey of U.S. vehicle dependability, Suzuki’s scores in power-trains, body and materials, and features and accessories were below those of almost every other brand. One sign Suzuki is having trouble selling its vehicles is that it currently offers a very aggressive zero-percent financing package for 72 months on all of its 2012 cars, trucks and SUVs. Even with aggressive sales tactics, Suzuki cannot improve its position in the American market. Most of its cars sell for less than $20,000 and its trucks and SUVs for under $25,000. Almost every other manufacturer with a broad range of vehicles has flooded this end of the market with cheap, fuel-efficient models. Arguably the most successful car company in the U.S. based on growth — Hyundai — does particularly well in this segment.
Launched in 1995, Salon.com is one of the pioneering news and commentary sites on the web. In recent years, it has been eclipsed by larger and better financed sites such as The Atlantic and Washington Post (NYSE: WPO)-owned Slate. Of course, today there are thousands of websites that comment on the news each day. Some of these, like The Blaze, which is owned by Glenn Beck, are well funded. In a sign that Salon is very close to being shuttered, the company “lost” its CEO and CFO recently. Chief technology officer, Cynthia Jeffers, was put in charge. But Salon will need a great deal more than new management. At the end of the final quarter of 2011, Salon had $149,000 in the bank against short-term liabilities that included $12.7 million in loans. During the same quarter, Salon lost $997,000 on revenue of $1.03 million. Rumors are that John Warnock, the cofounder of Adobe Systems (NASDAQ: ADBE), and investment banker Bill Hambrecht fund the company. But as it falls apart at the seams, more money is unlikely to be forthcoming.
[Related: Good Humor shortage puts ice cream man in bad mood]
8. The Oakland Raiders
The Raiders will play in the NFL next year. They just will not play in Oakland. The team, founded in 1960, was one of the original members of the AFL and joined the NFL when the leagues merged in 1970. The Raiders won the Super Bowl in 1976, 1980 and 1983. The team’s track record has been poor over the past decade. The Raiders left Oakland once before, when the franchise worked out a better stadium deal in Los Angeles from 1983 to 1994. Oakland lured the team back with an agreement to add $220 million in improvements to the stadium where the team would play. One reason the team will leave Oakland again is the financial plans of the new owners. Al Davis had controlling ownership of the team from the 1960s until he died last year. His heirs and several smaller shareholders now control the team. Current team managing owner Mike Davis already has said he may move the Raiders back to LA to get a better stadium deal. The current Oakland stadium contract expires next year. Davis recently told the San Francisco Chronicle, “Yeah, Los Angeles is a possibility. Wherever’s a possibility. We need a stadium.” The Raiders also could move to Santa Clara, where they would share a stadium with the San Francisco 49ers, much as the New York Jets and Giants do.
This tiny carrier has lost any chance it may have had to compete with larger competitors T-Mobile, AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Sprint-Nextel (NYSE: S). Investors have abandoned the company, depressing its shares from a 52-week high of $17.84 to $5.86 — very near its period low. Competition with the larger companies has begun to take a significant toll. The Associated Press recently reported that, “MetroPCS Communications Inc. says it gained a net 131,654 subscribers in the quarter, the worst result in years for the first quarter, which is normally the company’s strongest. It ended the quarter with 9.5 million customers.” The carrier’s first-quarter earnings were so weak that a number of securities analysts downgraded its shares. MetroPCS often is mentioned as a takeover target. In May, several Wall St. analysts said that the company was in buyout talks with T-Mobile, which is owned by giant European telecommunication company Deutsche Telekom. This immediately gave MetroPCS (NYSE: PCS) stock a push higher. Later in the same month, MetroPCS shares rose again as the CEO of Sprint-Nextel said he expects consolidation in the cellular carrier market. Sprint and T-Mobile both continue to struggle because of their modest subscriber bases compared to AT&T and Verizon. Each needs more customers. While MetroPCS is too small to survive on its own, its buyout would give either company the additional customer critical mass it needs.
It would be hard to find another large American company as bad off as Avon Products (NYSE: AVP). Avon’s long time CEO, Andrea Jung, was ousted late last year after nearly wrecking the company. Avon’s new CEO, Sherilyn S. McCoy, formerly of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), joined the company in April. She has not run a public corporation, let alone one in big trouble. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s examination of Avon’s communications with securities analysts already has cost CFO Charles Cramb his job. Avon is also under scrutiny for whether its Chinese operations meet compliance standards under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. One of Avon’s core problems is that the beauty market is highly competitive, yet management has not concentrated on its core business. As Morningstar analyst Erin Lash recently wrote, “Despite restructuring initiatives that have cost the firm nearly $800 million through fiscal 2011, it appears to us that Avon is constantly putting out fires rather than proactively moving forward.” There is much to fix. Avon announced disastrous earnings in the previous quarter, and it forecast that things will get worse. Avon, however, is fortunate that it may have a suitor. In May, perfume company Coty offered $24.75 a share for Avon, nearly 20% above Avon’s stock price at the time. Coty had the financial backing of, among others, Warren Buffett. Avon dragged its feet and Coty withdrew its offer. But Coty, another consumer products firm or a private equity house will be back. Since the Coty offer was withdrawn, Avon’s shares have dropped below $16. That price is down from $43 four years ago. The market has no confidence in Avon, but with its brand and revenue, it is an ideal takeover target.