What happened

When last we heard from Pitney Bowes (NYSE:PBI), things were not going especially well for the postal-services company. Earnings reported in November came in far short of estimates, and investors were not at all pleased with the numbers -- selling off Pitney Bowes stock by nearly 18%.

But that was then, and this is now. Today, Pitney Bowes stock was up nearly 18% at one point, and closed the day up 14.9%. The reason: It appears that private-equity buyers have decided to strike while the iron is hot -- or rather, not very hot -- and try to buy Pitney Bowes on the cheap.

Sharks circling man in boat

Pitney Bowes' business is in trouble, the sharks are starting to circle -- and that's the good news. Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Here's what's happening: According to Bloomberg, private-equity shops Blackstone and Carlyle have both expressed interest in buying out Pitney Bowes. What's more, Pitney Bowes' management is said to have engaged in at least "preliminary" talks with the suitors -- and management is amenable to doing a deal at the right price.

Now what

Precisely what price that will be remains to be seen, but judging from today's action on the New York Stock Exchange, investors seem to expect that Blackstone and Carlyle will be asked to pay a significant premium to Pitney Bowes' share price as of as recently as Wednesday. Investors "lucky" enough to have owned Pitney Bowes stock before the buyout rumors broke are smiling today. Anyone looking to buy into Pitney Bowes now that the news has broken, however, might want to think twice.

At 28.7 times trailing earnings, Pitney Bowes is not exactly a cheap stock. If no buyout deal emerges, even though talks have begun, investors could end up owning a troubled, heavily indebted company whose earnings -- such as they are -- are only expected to grow at about 4% annually over the next five years.

Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.