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Circuit City. Lehman Brothers. General Motors. CIT Group. These and many more companies have flamed out in high-profile failure and bankruptcy, after their managers took grave risks or made major strategic mistakes that ended in disaster. The carnage isn't over, alas. 2010 could bring many more high-profile flameouts.
Corporate America is still full of companies with balance sheets loaded with way too much debt. (Exhibit 1: Sirius XM (Nasdaq: SIRI ) .) Some companies overexpanded during the bubble days, catering to artificially inflated demand. (Exhibit 2: Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) .) Some companies have been unable to evolve to meet competitive changes in their industry's landscape. (Exhibit 3: Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI ) .) And some companies have all three of those factors to contend with!
Meanwhile, the bruised economy has done more than give consumers a newfound sense of thrift. Some consumers aren't spending because they simply can't. Given 10% unemployment, continued layoffs as corporations continue to cut costs, underwater mortgages, and rising credit defaults, the outlook seems bleak indeed.
Fortunately for investors, there are still solid companies with plenty of cash that can weather the tough times. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) are two companies with massive cash reserves, for example. They can continue to innovate while waiting for better times, and nobody has to worry that they can't afford to keep the lights on.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of companies that could fail in 2010 due to a combination of macroeconomic factors and company-specific problems. Some struggling companies could stagger through if times were better, but continued pressure on the consumer will make some companies goners.
Personally, I suspect Borders Group (NYSE: BGP ) is one of the leading contenders for such a sad fate. It's struggled with debt, lagging revenue, and dwindling customer traffic -- and I'm simply not convinced that the retail landscape needs it anymore. Between powerful book-peddling rivals like Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) and Barnes & Noble, not to mention big changes in media, Borders may be destined for failure in 2010.
Let's turn it over to you, though. Which company do you think is destined to fail in 2010, and why? Leave your failure nomination in the comments below, in less than 250 words. You could win a subscription to Motley Fool Hidden Gems, whose whole team is dedicated to finding strong stocks for the long haul -- in short, the exact opposite of companies destined for failure.
The editorial team will select a winner based on the most compelling argument against a company. Our contest runs until 8:00 p.m. EST on Dec. 17; read up on full contest rules here.
Chime in below for your chance to win.