March 2, 2012
Few economic vehicles are as brutally Darwinian as the stock market. The strong survive, the weak don't. And I can't think of a stock that deserves extinction more than Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) .
Sound crazy? Maybe, but I'm backing my view with a short-side CAPS call. Here's why:
- Failure to connect. According to reporting by Bloomberg, the board nixed a secret $8 billion bid for wireless carrier MetroPCS (NYSE: PCS ) . There are two problems here. First, the board's rare action calls into question CEO Dan Hesse's ability to lead. Second, the state of MetroPCS' financials -- marred as they are by declining margins and evaporating free cash flow -- suggests that Hesse was acting out of desperation rather than strategic interest.
- The iPhone. You heard me right! Sprint is paying such a massive premium to Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) for the rights to distribute the iPhone that its margin on operating profits before depreciation and amortization fell from 16% in last year's fourth quarter to just 9.5% in the December period. And it's going to get worse before it gets better: Sprint is on the hook to purchase $15 billion worth of iPhones over a four-year period.
- Awful financials. Of course, Sprint may well go bankrupt before the deal expires. Debt as a percentage of equity and capital has risen every year since 2006, the stock is trading near a 52-week low, and levered free cash flow fell nearly two-thirds last year, to a seven-year low. Sprint's best option for raising capital may be to take on more debt that it can't afford.
Shorting carries risks, to be sure. But the stock market consists of both buyers and sellers, and we need sellers -- including short-sellers -- to ensure that undeserving businesses aren't priced at wealth-destroying premiums.
Put differently: When it comes to the business of investing for market-beating returns ... THIS. IS. SPARTA! Weakling stocks such as Sprint need not apply. There are too many other great options for betting on the rise of mobile computing. The Motley Fool recently identified a hidden winner in a new report entitled "The Next Trillion-Dollar Revolution." The research is free, but only for a limited time. Click here to get your copy now.