You'd think that a company with a name like AirNet Systems
Founded 28 years ago, AirNet provides time-critical aviation services to banks and small package shippers. In all, the company has 129 aircraft and serves more than 100 cities nationwide.
However, AirNet has a big problem: A big part of its revenues -- $28.8 million in the second quarter -- came from the banking industry. That is, the company ships checks.
Well, Congress has passed a new law, called Check21, that will eventually eliminate the shipment of checks. In other words, a huge part of AirNet's business could evaporate.
To deal with this, AirNet has entered the passenger charter business. What's more, the company is focusing on other cargo, such as human organs. But these areas are intensely competitive. In fact, that's the view of some dissident shareholders of AirNet, Opportunity Partners L.P., and Pacific Coast Investment Partners LLC. Recently, two partners from these funds were appointed to AirNet's board, and they are apparently pushing the company to get out of this business.
Yet AirNet can't seem to get any traction. For example, the New York Stock Exchange recently sent it a delisting notice because it has fallen below a couple of listing standards -- market cap and shareholders' equity. Perhaps not unrelated, a balance sheet was conspicuously absent from its earnings release -- often a red flag.
Despite all the problems, AirNet's stock rose 16.39% to $4.90 on Friday. According to the company, it has received "initial responses from interested parties" to sell itself.
But playing this stock is certainly a risky proposition. As we've seen recently, weakened companies usually get little or no premium in a buyout scenario. Given AirNet's deteriorating core business -- and its going into the fiercely competitive cargo business -- expecting a premium may be wishful thinking. And further, banking on any sort of buyout carries its own risks. The business itself doesn't appear to be going places too quickly, aside from delisting.
Fool contributor Tom Taulli does not own shares of companies mentioned in this article.