What: The shares of Mechel OAO (ADR) (NYSE:MTL) fell 22% in September, after jumping some 17% in August. That continues the seesaw action this heavily indebted Russian mining, steel, and energy company's shareholders have had to live with this year.
So what? Mechel's big problem right now is debt -- It has way to much of the stuff. However, it has been meeting with lenders to rework its loans and credit lines so it can avoid bankruptcy. And on that score, it has had some success coming to terms with two of three main lenders. One bank is still balking, so the company isn't out of the financial woods just yet.
Which is where some other negatives come into play. For example, the New York Stock Exchange has notified Mechel that it is no longer in compliance with listing requirements because its shares have traded at low levels for too long. Mechel has six months to resolve the issue, which is kind of small potatoes compared with its other problems, but it certainly doesn't make things any better.
And the Russian company also reported earnings. While earnings inched into the plus column in the second quarter, the first half was still mired deeply in the red. The commodity markets in which the company operates remain weak, so all the second-quarter earnings proved was that Mechel's business is still struggling in a tough business environment. That's not surprising, but it means getting that last debt deal done is increasingly important to the company's ability to survive.
Now what? At this point, investors have to keep watching the company's work on restructuring its debt load. That's the most important thing right now. Although Mechel seems to be doing better on the operating front, that won't matter if it can't come to terms with its last big lender on a new debt agreements. And as the news ebbs and flows there, so will the shares.