It happens to every company sooner or later: Wall Street sets a mark for quarterly earnings, and the company misses that goal. Sometimes an earnings stumble is a signal to sell, but digging in the dirt is also a good way to find turnaround candidates while they're getting beaten down. Today, we're looking at some buzz on the cable, an unfocused multimedia presentation, and a "credit: denied" statement delivered by email.
Our first underperformer this week is international cable operator Liberty Global
The increased loss wasn't operational, but rather a result of higher than expected interest expenses and taxes. The company seems hard to estimate properly, since each of the last five quarters have seen earnings surprises in excess of 100%, two of them positive and three negative.
Liberty Global is doing plenty to invest in itself these days. Over the past year, it has sold cable systems in France, Norway, and Sweden, and some of the gain from those divestitures was sunk into the acquisition of two operators in the Czech Republic. The company is also buying significant amounts of infrastructure equipment from Nortel
Management certainly seems to think that the stock is undervalued today, and some Fools are inclined to agree. The market took kindly to the earnings miss, since it was accompanied by reaffirmed full-year guidance and news of the strengthened repurchase program. This might be a sniffing opportunity for the value hounds out there.
All fun and games?
Let's move on to today's next disappointment, Multimedia Games
Guidance for the next quarter was lower than expected, and a hedge fund with an 8.5% stake in the company is now looking to replace all or part of the board unless the company "takes action to maximize shareholder value." That could include restructuring agreements with tribes in Oklahoma (where most of this quarter's operational problems seemed to rest), a large-scale stock buyback to capitalize on the 52-week low share price, or exploring sale or merger opportunities.
Multimedia Games already has Bear Stearns
Banking on a higher net
That brings us to our last laggard in this round, online bank NetBank
Management is pessimistic about the near future, and CEO Douglas Freeman calls these results "unacceptable." Mortgage operations are taking a toll on the company's overall performance, and that division is now officially on the sales block. NetBank has recently signed marketing agreements with hotel chains Hilton
You'd think that a bank without local branches might be able to keep operating costs low and run a lean, mean operation in general. It doesn't appear to be quite that easy in reality. NetBank shares are trading at eight-year lows, and the company is bleeding cash -- a net loss of $31 million hurts when you only have $96 million of cash and equivalents on the balance sheet. In short, there are problems on top of problems here, and the latest earnings shortfall may be just a symptom of larger issues.
Some of these underperformers are victims of larger circumstances, while others might have only themselves to blame. It's up to you to decide which down-on-their-luck companies should be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and which really are stuck in the mud. Come back next Monday, and we'll take a look at another batch of mishaps and disappointments. It'll be fun and educational. Promise.
Further Foolish reading:
- Liberty Global was one of Nortel's biggest customers last quarter.
- Multimedia Games looked like a bargain around the New Year.
- Netbank, on the other hand, looked ready to crash and burn six months ago.
- Take cheap when you can get it.
Seeking great deals on unfairly punished stocks? Philip Durell and his merry band of Fools at the Motley Fool Inside Value newsletter service are standing by to help you find great stocks at ridiculously low markdowns. Try a 30-day trial subscription to see whether bargain-hunting is right for you.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in the companies discussed this week, but he's had a NetBank money market account for years. The Fool has a disclosure policy; you can see Anders' current holdings for yourself.
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