A buck can go a long way at a fast-food joint these days. Whether you're craving a double cheeseburger or a side salad, the burger chains are priced for penny-pinching times.
The same goes for Wall Street.
There are plenty of household names trading for roughly a dollar a share. They're not just reporting four quarters, they're worth it.
Buck the trend
This isn't necessarily a buy list. Some of these marked-down companies may be on their way to zero. Whether it's a lack of profitability or mounting debt, some may have little choice but to file for bankruptcy reorganization, wiping out their common shareholders along the way.
However, if just one manages to wiggle its way out of the penny-stock gutter and back into the single digits, it will be more than enough to offset the losses elsewhere.
Vonage (NYSE: VG ) -- $1.14
Remember when Vonage was going to kill the telcos? Its broadband-tethered digital phone service was priced -- and marketed -- aggressively. Unfortunately, the stock overstayed its welcome on the hype bandwagon. By the time the company went public two years ago, conventional carriers had similar products available. True spendthrifts resorted to Skype, while 911 hiccups tarnished the niche's reputation.
By the time Vonage went public in May of 2006 at $17, the glory was over. Two days later, the stock was down to $13, and many Vonage customers who were given access to the IPO were refusing to pay for their stock.
Losses have narrowed and churn has improved in the latest quarter, but subscriber growth has hit the wall with the current 2.6 million accounts. As long as the subscriber count doesn't start heading in reverse, Vonage has a chance. Unfortunately, it also has pesky debt to tackle.
Chances of going to zero: 60%. Vonage is hoping that marketing sizzle will help differentiate it from the competition, but this is a commoditized market. The company added just 2,000 net new subs this past quarter, and it's unlikely to recover once it pulls into reverse.
Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) -- $0.89
With 18.6 million subscribers, there's a good chance that you -- and/or someone you know -- subscribes to satellite radio. Now that Sirius and XM have completed their merger, the stand-alone company is positioned to cash in on the synergies.
The rub? Well, Sirius XM is still far away from profitability. It also has three huge debt-refinancing speed bumps to get past next year. Thankfully, the subscriber count keeps growing. Even with a moribund auto market, more new cars are coming with factory-installed satellite radio receivers.
Chances of going to zero: 30%. If credit markets continue to tighten, Sirius XM may find it advantageous to restructure its debt in bankruptcy court.
Rite Aid (NYSE: RAD ) -- $0.98
With 5,000 drugstores around the country, you have probably stepped inside a Rite Aid before. Unfortunately, Rite Aid isn't as healthy as some of its customers after they have their prescriptions filled.
The company reports earnings on Thursday, and there's little hope for a profit. The company has posted a loss in each of the four previous quarters. Drugstores are supposed to be recession-resistant, but Rite Aid's debt load keeps growing.
Chances of going to zero: 40%. Investors holding out for a buyout need to recognize that the company's hefty debt balance will make an acquisition costly for a potential buyer. Rite Aid will have to dig itself out of its own hole, and that won't be easy in a climate with better-financed drugstore rivals and discount department stores ramping up their marked-down prescriptions.
Citadel Broadcasting (NYSE: CDL ) -- $0.78
Things seemed to be going Citadel's way when the terrestrial radio operator agreed to combine with Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) ABC radio operations last year. It's been nothing but static ever since.
If you think Sirius XM and overseas satellite radio peer Worldspace (Nasdaq: WRSP ) have a tough road ahead of them to get off the dollar menu, at least they're growing. Terrestrial radio is struggling against several digital outlets competing for eardrums.
Chances of going to zero: 20%. Terrestrial radio may be a dying breed, but Citadel isn't going down without a fight. It is still generating free cash flow and has been paying down its debt. These are welcome signs that will find the company digging itself out of this gutter if a hungry private equity firm doesn't snap it up first.
Six Flags (NYSE: SIX ) -- $0.92
The regional amusement-park operator is on the cusp of a breakthrough. During last month's quarterly conference call, CEO Mark Shapiro noted that the company is on track to deliver its first quarter of positive free cash flow. Attendance has actually picked up during the current quarter, as of the company's mid-quarter update.
That's great, but even after selling a few of its smaller parks, the company's debt is clocking in at a stingy $2.3 billion. Turning the cash flow corner is one thing, but appeasing the creditors is another.
Chances of going to zero: 40%. This is the third season under Six Flags' current management team, and delivering favorable results is critical. It would help sway creditors into giving the company a break. As a consumer-facing company, filing for bankruptcy reorganization could be fatal. Unsophisticated investors and lay consumers may interpret it as a sign that the company is going under, and that's not going to make turnstiles click any faster. The company needs to pull itself out of this on its own, but there may come a time when creditors with carving knives have had enough.
Here are some other ways to chase a buck: