So says Mark Wattles, founder of Blockbuster rival Hollywood Video, who this morning revealed in an SEC filing that he now owns 5.7% of the company:
Given the operating fundamentals of the Issuer combined with the short term of its real estate leases (typically five years) and the aggressive and proactive manner in which the Issuer has managed its store base (including relocations, store closings, reductions in store size and subleases), Mr. Wattles does not believe that the Issuer has a motive to reorganize under Chapter 11 ... Mr. Wattles believes the Issuer will be successful in refinancing its revolving bank line of credit, or if it cannot, that it will be able to use cash flow from operations to meet its August repayment obligations and 2009 liquidity needs.
Talk about great PR. Investors had bid up shares of Blockbuster by more than 15% in midday trading.
Now 30% less doomed?
Wattles' faith is comforting because he's an industry insider. He's seen the same reports that the rest of us have, and he knows that the company is struggling to free itself from more than $600 million in long-term debt.
We'll know more about Blockbuster's plans on Thursday, when it reports full-year and fourth-quarter earnings after the market closes. Blockbuster bulls hope that management has found a way to restructure $135 million borrowed against a revolving credit facility that expires in August.
But whatever the plan, I find Wattles' prognostications to be aggressive at best. He's failing to consider Blockbuster's competitive advantage -- or lack thereof.
May I have the red envelope, please ...
You no longer need stores to deliver video. Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) has proven that. So has Hulu.com, a video-streaming joint venture between General Electric (NYSE: GE ) and News Corp. (NYSE: NWS ) .
Even so, streaming isn't yet a substitute for physical DVDs and Blu-ray discs. Just look at the rental data. Last year, DVD rentals earned $1.9 billion for movie studios such as Viacom's (NYSE: VIA ) Paramount Pictures and Sony's (NYSE: SNE ) Columbia Pictures. And that was in a bad year; actual DVD sales fell 23% during 2008, according to Adams Media Research.
Unfortunately, a healthy rental market isn't necessarily good news for Blockbuster. Coinstar's (Nasdaq: CSTR ) Redbox is growing massively, expecting revenue to rise some 80% this year. That's pretty impressive when you consider that Redbox already caters to 35 million unique customers, who rent flicks for a $1 a day from its nationwide network of 12,000 automated kiosks.
There's also the library. Here at the Beyers household, roughly 90% of our rented DVDs are county property. The other 10% are delivered by the Post Office via Netflix. So again, why buy Blockbuster if there's no apparent competitive advantage?
Perhaps because expectations are so low that any reports of progress could lead to investor profits. "I think Blockbuster is finally catching on. They're making some hefty moves towards online movies, which is the next big thing," wrote CAPS investor pheadbaq in February:
The trickiest part of their whole business at this point are the brick-n-mortar stores and the waning demand for on-site movie rentals. If they can make use of them (turn them into music, video game, movie stores?), then great, but otherwise, they need to ditch them. Kiosk units are very popular now as well (RedBox), so they could gain some market share there as well. Overall I think they're making the moves they need to.
So, apparently, does Wattles. Interestingly, he doesn't specify in his filing whether he considers Blockbuster a long-term holding. Perhaps that's for a reason. Survival alone could lead to multibagger returns; maybe that's all Wattles is betting on.
Maybe that's all any of us should bet on.
Be kind, rewind to further Foolishness: