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Is the next play in Mr. Market's playbook a reverse?
A wave of reverse stock splits appears almost inevitable, as battered stocks try to maintain their stock listing and win over investors who shy away from speculative stocks that trade in pocket change.
Six Flags (NYSE: SIX ) may be leading the way. The regional amusement park operator announced that it is not in compliance with New York Stock Exchange listing standards, requiring stocks to not fall below the $1.00 share price for 30 days.
If the company is unable to lift its shares organically, a reverse split is one of the alternatives that the company is considering.
It's not the only company on the exchange's watch list. The NYSE sent a similar notice to Citadel Broadcasting (NYSE: CDL ) last month, as the country's third largest terrestrial radio operator "broke the buck" in August.
Reverse splits aren't all that different than the more conventional stock splits. When a company declares a 2-for-1 stock split, investors see their share counts double as a stock price gets cut in half. Reverse splits work the other way around. A 1-for-10 reverse split, for example would find a company with 10 million shares at $1 apiece become the same $10 million company, only with a million shares at $10 apiece.
Reverse splits are becoming more common these days. Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: JAVA ) executed a 1-for-4 reverse split last year. Online fashion retailer Bluefly (Nasdaq: BFLY ) went through a 1-for-10 reverse this year.
It's humbling. It's embarassing. It's also sometimes necessary. Beyond exchange listing standards, consumer-facing companies can't afford to be associated with dirt cheap prices.
Will a thrill-seeking teen, unsure about whether or not to renew his Six Flags season pass, pull up a stock price and decide against it because the stock closed at $0.65 a share yesterday? No, but a pocket-change share price can hurt in other ways, as traditional media lays off on the fiscal accolades, and potential entertainment-industry executives resist the urge to partner with Six Flags.
I suggested that satellite radio giant Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) declare a reverse stock split this week. Sirius needs to attract executives, on-air talent, and subscribers. It's hard for any of those factions to tether themselves to long-term commitments if they believe the company is failing.
A reverse split is a zero-sum game, but it can still fool plenty of people who pull up a stock quote. It also can attract institutional investors who wouldn't dabble in lower-priced equities.
Companies like Citadel and Six Flags may be the next batch of reverse stock split candidates, but they're really just about to open up the floodgates.
More news than static on Sirius XM: