What: Mechel OAO (ADR) (NYSE:MTL) saw a share price advance of 17% in August, which is just one more gyration in a year that's seen massive swings in the heavily indebted Russian mining, steel, and energy company's stock price.
So what: Interestingly, Mechel's shares started the month heading lower as fear of bankruptcy was pushing investors to run for the hills. At one point, the stock was down roughly 30% in August. When your largest lenders want to get paid and you don't have the cash, its understandable that your shareholders would be a little skittish.
But as the month drew to a close, it appeared that Mechel may be able to extract itself from the abyss -- or at least buy itself some more time. Indeed, it managed to get some of its lenders to agree to adjust the terms of its debt. And it's pushing more to follow suit. There's at least one big holdout, accounting for around 20% of its debt, but the news has been far more positive than negative lately.
So what: This is a highly speculative investment, at best. Essentially, the story is all about remaining out of bankruptcy court. That's not the type of bet most investors should be taking on. Clearly, it's a good thing if Mechel manages to get its debt restructured and survives to fight another day. So there's good reason for the stock price advance, assuming things get worked out, as it increasingly looks like they will.
But, and this is a big but, a debt deal will only buy the company time. A true turnaround is reliant on the improvement of the company's core operations. And since a big part of its core is mining coal and making steel, that's not looking too good right now. To buy here, you need to be confident that Mechel will both survive its current debt crisis and stay solvent long enough to see its core markets improve. Oh, and let's not forget that Russia, the country the company calls home, is facing financial sanctions right now. "Speculative" may be too soft a word.