The concept here is simple: Take a well-liked company on Motley Fool CAPS and completely debunk the notion that it's worth buying. Does this mean that after I put a company through the ringer it's worth selling? Maybe, maybe not -- that's up to you to decide. The point of Bash My Stock is to expose the fact that there's another side to every trade, and this series will attempt to look at the bearish view of why a stock might not be such a great value after all. Today I suggest we take a closer look at Patriot Coal (NYSE: PCX ) .
Like many of its coal peers, Patriot Coal has seen its share price tumble to multiyear lows on concerns over lower demand and weakening prices. This move lower has many investors wondering if now is the right time to buy into coal stocks with many now trading at or near 52-week lows.
Out of the 872 Motley Fool CAPS participants who have weighed in on the stock, 841 have rated it as a buy. Since it's currently hovering right at book value and at seven times forward earnings projections, Patriot Coal optimists could be witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime buying opportunity. Then again, they could also be looking at a lump of coal. Patriot Coal bulls, it's time for me to bash your stock.
My first stab at the company relates to its inability to produce coal. I'll concede that coal production is a dangerous business where safety is a priority, but within the past year and change, things have really gone awry. The company's Harris mine has been closed permanently, its Panther and Federal mines have both suffered from challenging geology and equipment downtimes, and another one of its thermal coal mines experienced a roof collapse in August. Patriot's Federal mine, which is its highest-yield, lowest-cost mine, was also shut down twice in 2010.
If the company can't produce coal, it can't make money -- plain and simple. Over the past year, Patriot's actual earnings (or in this case, losses) missed analyst projections three times. Even worse, the company hasn't been cash-flow positive since 2005 -- and even then it was only positive by a marginal amount.
Compare these figures to those of almost any other coal company in the sector and it'll leave you scratching your head. Peers Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI ) and James River Coal (Nasdaq: JRCC ) are both profitable and trading below book value. Other rivals like Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU ) and CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX ) may not be as cheap on a book basis, but they more than make up for it by turning a profit -- something Patriot Coal hasn't done often recently.
For the knockout blow I'll let the conviction of insiders do the talking for me. Within the past six months, insiders have purchased 400 shares while selling ... wait for it ... 12.7 million shares. You can turn to Arch, Alliance Resource Partners (Nasdaq: ARLP ) , Peabody, or CONSOL and get in some cases a substantial dividend. Any idea what Patriot rewards its shareholders with? Zilch! If you want a dividend, you'll need to look elsewhere.
From the facts above I have enough reason to peg Patriot Coal as an underperform moving forward. Now it's your turn to sound off by voting in the poll below and explaining your reasoning in the comments section. Also, feel free to suggest the next company you'd like to see "bashed" and you may just wind up getting mentioned in the next Bash My Stock installment.
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