Well that was certainly exciting! Over the course of six and a half hours of frenzied trading, shares of satellite communications company Globalstar (GSAT) first plunged 23%, then soared 85% (off their lows), before ultimately closing out Wednesday right back where they started -- actually, down 1.4% for the day. And now it's getting worse.
As Thursday trading shifts into the afternoon, at 1 p.m. ET, shares of Globalstar are down another 5.8% from yesterday's close. And I fear Apple (AAPL 2.11%) may be to blame for it all.
Heading into its big iPhone 14 unveiling, you see, Apple announced midday Wednesday that it will partner with Globalstar to support a new function on its phone -- the ability to text short, emergency messages via satellite when a user is traveling through a cellphone dead zone.
Investors had been waiting all year long for this news, but when the news finally arrived this week, it seems they were disappointed. Why is that?
Consider: Apple committed to spending $450 million building up the infrastructure it will need to offer this new service, and according to Reuters, the "majority" of this money is earmarked for Globalstar. Problem is, while $450 million sounds like a lot of money (Globalstar did less than $140 million in revenue over the past year), it won't be enough money to cover Globalstar's costs of building additional satellites to support the Apple service. Globalstar said it will need to take on new debt for this, adding to a debt load that's already nearly $350 million net of cash.
Granted, Globalstar should be able to service its new debt with revenue from the Apple service -- but it remains to be seen how much Apple will actually pay Globalstar for its satellite communications assistance. It's hard to imagine that there's a huge amount of money, though, in facilitating the sending of short, emergency text messages that no one actually wants to have to send unless they're caught in a dead zone. And whatever the cost is, it probably won't be a lot -- because Apple is offering this emergency service free of charge for the first two years of service.
Chances are Apple wouldn't be willing to eat those costs if they were very large -- or more pertinent to investors, if they would generate very much revenue for Globalstar. And I'm afraid in the end, this leaves Globalstar stock right back where it was before the announcement: As an unprofitable satellite company with a $3.5 billion market capitalization, selling for a price-to-sales ratio that's actually several times more expensive than Apple's own P/S ratio. Maybe the better play here is to forget about unprofitable Globalstar and just buy Apple stock instead.