A year ago, it would have been hard to find people who would believe that Sirius XM (SIRI) or Charter Communications (CHTR) would trade below $1. Sirius had a 52-week high of $3.92. Its merger, which was to create one satellite radio company, was supposed to push that share price up. But, it has over $1 billion of debt to be refinanced next year. Today it fetches $.37.
Charter is in a pretty good business. As a cable provider it markets digital TV, broadband and VoIP services. The company has more than five million customers. It also has over $20 billion in debt. The stock changes hands at $.38. That compares with a 52-week high of $3.94
There are several other very well-known companies which could move below $1 and face problems with their exchange listings and their ability to attract new capital.
Ford (F) has fallen from a 52-week high of $8.99 to $1.88 earlier this month. US cars sales in each of the last three months of the year could be more brutal than they were in the first three quarters. In addition to a slowing economy, car buyers, even those with reasonable finances, are finding it hard to get car loans. A number of auto industry analysts believe that Ford will get low on cash by the second half of next year.
Level 3 (LVLT) appeared to have recovered from a share price which was hurt by the company’s net losses earlier this year. It had cut its great hunger for buying and unsuccessfully integrating new operations. But, it has almost $7 billion in debt and extremely modest operating income. Shares have fallen from a 52-week high of $4.48 to $1.26. Any significant problems with its debt or a quarter or two of losses and the stock could go lower.
Ambac (ABK) has done well recently. The bond insurance company indicated that it will try to get the federal government to buy its risky assets. That may not happen. Or, the toxic assets on the firm’s balance sheet could become more troubled as the economy and housing market fail. The stock has been as low as $1.04. It trades at $3.04 now. It would only take one big dose of bad news to push it lower again.
AIG (AIG) has to sell a lot of assets to get out from under the $89 billion it has borrowed from its federal government loan facility. There is already speculation that it is having trouble selling some of its best assets because of the credit market. The insurance company still has bad paper on its books and the value of that could certainly be falling. Management now gets to spend a lot of time with NYS Attorney General Cuomo. Not a good distraction during a turnaround. The stock traded at $1.25 earlier this year, and now sells for $2.12 a share.
NCC (NCC) has recovered some from its balance sheet problems. Investors are speculating that the Paulson plan will help the bank rid itself of bad assets. It might even get Treasury to buy some of its shares to provide capital. There have also been rumors that a larger bank like Citigroup (C) will buy it. A quarter or two of bad write-offs and disclosures about the faltering value of its balance sheet could cut NCC down to size. It trades at $3.03 but was at $1.25 not terribly long ago.
Douglas A. McIntyre