In the spirit of the Winter Olympics, The Motley Fool is pitting companies against one another. The writers will outline why their company should win, and our very own panel of judges will decide the winner after a period of deliberation. Stay tuned for more!
For all of their glamour, the Winter Games also offer up plenty of disappointments. Bode Miller might be the best example, given his disappointing performance in the downhill-skiing events thus far. With a disqualification in the combined event and his failure to finish the super-G, Bode has yet to earn a medal in four events. Will this Olympics be a bust for the brash new face of American skiing?
To make matters worse, the outlook for the store-based movie rental industry isn't pretty. Rentals are down, and the Movie Gallery's
Then there's Carl Icahn. The activist shareholder has made it known that he believes Blockbuster's best strategy is to milk its cash-cow stores. Will he oppose a plan to expand Blockbuster's online business? I don't think so, but the waters remain somewhat muddy for investors.
In my mind, the biggest disappointment is the uncertainty that now surrounds the entire situation. How will the company integrate its stores and its online service to regain customer loyalty and generate cash for shareholders? What will happen with those non-core assets? Given video gaming's current popularity, should Blockbuster continue to rent and sell games, or is it better to sell those businesses?
And if Blockbuster were to milk the store-rental business and sell assets, where would that capital go? Some of it would have to pay down debt, but would it also fund more dividends and share buybacks? Would Icahn approve of reinvesting capital in the business to continue the transformation?
Argghh! This is making my head hurt.
While it may be maddening, there is a benefit to uncertainty: It keeps the stock price down. That's just what a value investor likes -- a stock price that isn't going anywhere soon, providing enough time to really get a grip on the situation.
From a value investor's point of view, Blockbuster should take the gold for the biggest disappointment. It's not because it was late to respond to Netflix's disruptive technology, nor because the business is still in the middle of a turnaround without any clear endgame. No, it should win because big disappointments are a value investor's meat and potatoes.
Today, it's very easy to conclude that Netflix will win. In fact, I think most everyone has. A quick look at their respective stock prices is pretty good evidence. But investor sentiment against Blockbuster because of its disappointments and uncertainty may mean the stock is cheap today. Just as I wouldn't count Miller out of this Saturday's final skiing event, I wouldn't underestimate Blockbuster, with its recent customer growth and nearly $6 billion in revenue. The company may struggle in 2006, but the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver could be Blockbuster's time to shine.
Check in with the competition:
Fool editor David Meier is a member of the Motley Fool Inside Value team. He loves to look for cheap stocks that everyone else hates. (If you do, too, try a free 30-day subscription .) He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .