Speculating on Chapter 11 Stocks
NEW YORK (AP) _ Investors looking to speculate sometimes turn to stocks of companies undergoing bankruptcy reorganization, but those investments are not for the timid or impatient.
While shares of companies reorganizing under Chapter 11 of the federal bankrupcty code can be had on the cheap, they don’t pay dividends and investors can face years of waiting to find out whether their stake in the reorganized company will be worth anything.
Factors affecting share prices include: the reason for the company’s Chapter 11 filing; immediate factors, such as a selloff by frightened investors; the expected length of time before the company emerges from reorganization; and the potential impact of any reorganization plan on shareholders.
″I think it’s very difficult for a stockholder; you’re assuming a lot more risk than necessary,″ said William LeFevre at the investment firm Advest Inc. ″I think there are a lot better ways to invest money.″
The latest major Chapter 11 investment opportunity came this past week after Texaco Inc. sought the protection of federal bankruptcy court.
The company said the filing - the biggest ever - was necessary for it to continue appealing a Texas court judgment that it pay Pennzoil Inc. $11 billion for wrongly interfering in Pennzoil’s aborted merger with Getty Oil Co. Texaco aquired Getty itself.
Texaco shares already had been declining for some time before the filing because of the implications of the Pennzoil case.
Last Monday, the first trading day after the filing, Texaco dropped $3.37 1/2 a share, or about 11 percent of its market value, to $28.50. By the close of the holiday-shortened week on Thursday, the price was up to $31.25 after four days of generally heavy trading.
Part of the reason many investors initially sold their shares may have been Texaco’s suspension of its $3-a-share annual dividend. In addition, others may have worried about the impact of Chapter 11 on the company’s continuing operations, despite Texaco’s declaration it was conducting business as usual.
Major Wall Street credit rating firms downgraded Texaco’s rating sharply, a move that generally increases the company’s cost of borrowing money. In addition, a number of the company’s suppliers began requesting cash in advance, and some lenders reportedly cut lines of credit.
If not resolved, such problems could cause the company’s health to deteriorate even as it works out its dispute with Pennzoil.
Another solvent company that filed Chapter 11, A.H. Robins Co. Inc., traded as low as $7.50 in the past year as it struggled to come up with a reorganization plan. Robins filed for protection in August 1985 because of thousands of damage claims from women who used its Dalkon Shield intrauterine birth control device.
Robins traded at $20 a share at mid-week, not far from its 52-week high of $25.37 1/2 , and jumped to $24 a share Thursday when the company unveiled a proposed reorganization plan.
The recent share price strength could indicate confidence among investors that Robins remained in good shape and was likely to settle the claims without penalizing shareholders.
On the other hand, the depressed share prices of companies that seek bankruptcy protection because of severe financial problems tend to stay depressed.
When LTV Corp. filed for protection in July 1986, its share price plunged by $2.25 - more than half of its market value - to $2.12 1/2 . LTV closed at $3.50 at the end of last week, well below its 52-week high of $9.75.
At the time it sought protection, LTV had posted losses every year since 1981 because of eroding performances by its steel and energy operations.
″If it’s a case where the company can’t pay its bills that’s one thing. But if it’s a ploy to blunt litigation, it’s another,″ said LeFevre.
Share prices also may be depressed by speculation over a company’s difficulties in coming up with a plan to emerge from Chapter 11, and the events that happen during formulation of that plan.
Manville Corp., for example, filed for protection in August 1982 in an attempt to quickly work its way out from under thousands of lawsuits alleging deaths or injuries from its asbestos products.
But the company still is operating under Chapter 11, and expects to remain there for another year under its current reorganization proposal. That proposal would slash the equity of current shareholders to about 6 percent of the company, with the rest of the shares being paid to asbestos victims, preferred stockholders and certain creditors.
″As a stockholder, there are a lot of people in front of you,″ said LeFevre. ″You’re the last person they care about.″
End Adv Monday April 20