We have witnessed several high-profile bankruptcies since the beginning of 2009, as the financial crisis and consequent spending slowdown has taken its toll on corporations and consumers alike. Household names, such as Circuit City and Linens ‘n Things, are no longer in existence. Their demise foreshadow what is likely to come, since, according to many, the list is likely to grow even larger. Yahoo Finance has compiled a such a list, a list of 15 battered companies on the brink of insolvency, with their chances based on analysis of their total debt load, coming interest payments and corporate bond ratings from Moody’s. Among those at risk (via Yahoo):
(RAD); about 100,000 employees; 1-year stock-price decline: 92%– This drugstore chain tried to boost its performance by acquiring competitors Brooks and Eckerd in 2007. But there have been some nasty side effects, like a huge debt load that makes it the most leveraged drugstore chain in the U.S., according to Zacks Equity Research. That big retail investment came just as mega-discounter Wal-Mart was starting to sell prescription drugs, and consumers were starting to cut bank on spending. Management has twice lowered its outlook for 2009. Prognosis: Mounting losses, with no turnaround in sight.
(Privately owned; about 55,000 employees)– It’s never a good sign when management insists the company is not going out of business, which is what CEO Bob Nardelli has been doing lately. Of the three Detroit automakers, Chrysler is the most endangered, with a product portfolio that’s over-reliant on gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs and almost totally devoid of compelling small cars. A recent deal with Fiat seems dubious, since the Italian automaker doesn’t have to pony up any money, and Chrysler desperately needs cash. The company is quickly burning through $4 billion in government bailout money, and with car sales down 40 percent from recent peaks, Chrysler may be the weakling that can’t cut it in tough times.
(BBI); about 60,000 employees; stock down 57%– The video-rental chain has burned cash while trying to figure out how to maximize fees without alienating customers. Its operating income has started to improve just as consumers are cutting back, even on movies. Video stores in general are under pressure as they compete with cable and Internet operators offering the same titles. A key test of Blockbuster’s viability will come when two credit lines expire in August. One possible outcome, according to Valueline, is that investors take the company private and then go public again when market conditions are better.
(KKD); about 4,000 employees; stock down 50%– The donuts might be good, but Krispy Kreme overestimated Americans’ appetite – and that’s saying something. This chain over-expanded during the donut heyday of the 1990s – taking on a lot of debt – and now requires high volumes to meet expenses and interest payments. The company has cut costs and closed under-performing stores, but still hasn’t earned an operating profit in three years. And now that consumers are cutting back on everything, such improvements may fail to offset top-line declines, leading Krispy Kreme to seek some kind of relief from lenders over the next year.
(TRMP); about 9,500 employees; stock down 94% – The casino company made famous by The Donald has received several extensions on interest payments, while it tries to sell at least one of its Atlantic City properties and pay down a stack of debt. But with casino buyers scarce, competition circling, and gamblers nursing their losses from the recession, Trump Entertainment may face long odds of skirting bankruptcy. Update: Feb. 17 – Trump Entertainment Resorts files for bankruptcy
While there are more at risk many more likely to fail, it’s not all bad news. Well-run and strongly capitalized companies will pick up the slack and take market share from those who just can’t cut it. It is a normal, yet widely-feared process called capitalism.