Transmeta Grasping at Straws

It's great fun to match up SEC filings with seemingly unrelated news.

Today, chip designer Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) and newly anointed microprocessor intellectual-property manager Transmeta (Nasdaq: TMTA  ) announced a $7.5 million investment by the former in the latter. That press release had an AMD spokesman promising to support its partner's "technology development work and AMD's efforts to leverage Transmeta's innovative energy-efficient technologies to the benefit of AMD's customers."

The other piece out there is Transmeta's proxy statement for its annual shareholders' meeting, filed last Friday. In it, the company asks investors to approve a reverse stock split to the tune of a 10-to-1 to 40-to-1 ratio. Taken by itself, that's usually a sign that things aren't going well, and management is willing to cheat a bit to meet the $1 share price that the NYSE and Nasdaq exchanges like to see, lest they unleash delisting notices upon the hapless company.

But add in that AMD investment, and it's starting to look as though Transmeta is fighting to stay on the market as an independent company, just a little bit longer.

The proxy shines a spotlight on some other peripherally interesting tidbits as well. I don't know how, but all of the executives qualified for performance bonuses this year. That's in a calendar year that saw Transmeta cutting two-thirds of its employees loose while its shares lost 80% of their value.

The company's patent portfolio is, in fact, valuable, but as of April this year, Transmeta really isn't in the business of doing business anymore. With just 65 people on its payroll, the six named executive officers make up 10% of the entire staff.

Maybe AMD's support can put some spring back in Transmeta's step. After all, $7.5 million is a serious windfall, considering that trailing revenues stand at just $31 million today, with $41 million in net losses, $35 million in negative free cash flow, and a rapidly dwindling cash balance. But don't bet on it. As I said, I think it's mostly the executives' last-ditch attempt to milk some more cash from the company before it goes bankrupt or gets bought out for pennies on the dollar.

I can't blame AMD for going along with the idea here. Although the company is in dire financial straits of its own and ill equipped to throw millions of dollars around on a whim, it's a relatively small sum that lets AMD cut in line as a preferred equity holder if or when Transmeta finally goes belly-up. That's a quick, easy, and pretty cheap way to rope in a few patents that already apply to AMD's Cool'n'Quiet and PowerNow! power management technology -- before someone else snags them.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund -- ranked No. 4,738 out of more than 50,000 Motley Fool CAPS players -- is an AMD shareholder but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. He is not Seth Jayson, but he is working on his impersonation routine. You can check outAnders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure will keep you in the black.


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