What happened

Shares of Canadian space star Maxar Technologies (MAXR) are taking off (again) today, up 8% as of 3:08 p.m. EDT on a report that the money-losing company has found a way to literally turn its losses into an asset.

As detailed in a press release today, Maxar "has adopted a tax benefit preservation plan to help preserve the value of its net operating losses and other tax attributes," so that these can be used to reduce its tax bills on any profits it earns in the future.

Pirate walking a businessman off the plank

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

As the company explains, Maxar has accumulated "U.S. federal net operating loss carryforwards and federal R&D tax credit carryforwards [of] approximately $890 million and $77 million, respectively." But "the value of these tax benefits would be substantially limited if Maxar were to experience an 'ownership change'" -- such as by anyone acquiring more than a 50% ownership of the company's shares.

To prevent this from happening, Maxar says it's issuing preferred-stock purchase rights to its shareholders that will entitle them to buy stock in the event of a takeover attempt. It would thus dilute the would-be acquirers' ownership of Maxar and avoid both a chance of control and a loss of the tax credits.

Now what

That's what Maxar says. If you ask me, though, this sounds an awful lot like a poison pill that Maxar is implementing, one that will make it hard for another space company to acquire Maxar at its current, depressed valuation. As such, I suspect the real purpose of Maxar's move is not, in fact, to preserve net operating losses as much as it is to preserve management's jobs -- and deny investors a chance to earn a fat profit in the event of a takeover bid.

If I'm right, then the investors buying Maxar stock hand over fist today are making exactly the wrong move.