Rumors move the market. Even silly rumors. For proof, look no further than the hot 'n' heavy action in stubs of Sun Microsystems
A good question. Especially since, at first blush, Sun seems to promise so little to a buyer -- unless you're a fan of flat sales and meager earnings.
When I first noticed the buyout rumor, I had one of those milk-snarf moments. Familiar with Sun's dodgy recent history with profits, and its less-than-forthright treatment of analysts and shareholders, I asked aloud, "Who'd want Sun?" Maybe too loudly. My colleagues, used to my random outbursts, turned up their iPods and did their best to continue ignoring me. All except one, who answered me via email.
Who'd want Sun? Microsoft
Point taken. It's not that any of these companies would actually be a buyout candidate. Rather, Sun's dismal profitability makes it easy to overlook the good stuff the company does have: technology and intellectual property that just about any firm would love to get its hands on. (If you've never just browsed the technophile sections on Sun's website to check out the firm's R&D, you're really missing out.)
As for a private firm's ability to take Sun, shed the unprofitable bits, and spin back out a leaner earnings machine (that's the analysts' hypothesis on the unsubstantiated buyout rumor's plan), I have my doubts. Cantankerous CEO Scott McNealy looks like one pretty big obstacle.
Still, despite my doubts about the firm's ability to grow at the top and bottom lines, as I see shares trading near lows and reconsider its substantial cash cushion, I'm starting to see the logic in a colleague's contention that Sun might be a value play. Unfortunately, I suspect that McNealy's management will have trouble unlocking the company's true potential in a way that will benefit shareholders.
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Seth Jayson is always wondering whether his opinion on a stock might be wrong. He would love to hear why Sun's a great buy. At the time of publication, he had no positions in any company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.