It would be hard to find another large American company as bad off as Avon Products (NYSE: AVP). Avon’s long time CEO, Andrea Jung, was ousted late last year after nearly wrecking the company. Avon’s new CEO, Sherilyn S. McCoy, formerly of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), joined the company in April. She has not run a public corporation, let alone one in big trouble. The Security and Exchange Commission’s examination of Avon’s communications with securities analysts already has cost CFO Charles Cramb his job. Avon is also under scrutiny for whether its Chinese operations meet compliance standards under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. One of Avon’s core problems is that the beauty market is highly competitive, yet management has not concentrated on its core business. As Morningstar analyst Erin Lash recently wrote, “Despite restructuring initiatives that have cost the firm nearly $800 million through fiscal 2011, it appears to us that Avon is constantly putting out fires rather than proactively moving forward.” There is much to fix. Avon announced disastrous earnings in the previous quarter, and it forecast that things will get worse. Avon, however, is fortunate that it may have a suitor. In May, perfume company Coty offered $24.75 a share for Avon, nearly 20% above Avon’s stock price at the time. Coty had the financial backing of, among others, Warren Buffett. Avon dragged its feet and Coty withdrew its offer. But Coty, another consumer products firm or a private equity house will be back. Since the Coty offer was withdrawn, Avon’s shares have dropped below $16. That price is down from $43 four years ago. The market has no confidence in Avon, but with its brand and revenue, it is an ideal takeover target.
This tiny carrier has lost any chance it may have had to compete with larger competitors T-Mobile, AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Sprint-Nextel (NYSE: S). Investors have abandoned the company, depressing its shares from a 52-week high of $17.84 to $5.86 — very near its period low. Competition with the larger companies has begun to take a significant toll. The Associated Press recently reported that, “MetroPCS Communications Inc. says it gained a net 131,654 subscribers in the quarter, the worst result in years for the first quarter, which is normally the company’s strongest. It ended the quarter with 9.5 million customers.” The carrier’s first-quarter earnings were so weak that a number of securities analysts downgraded its shares. MetroPCS often is mentioned as a takeover target. In May, several Wall St. analysts said that the company was in buyout talks with T-Mobile, which is owned by giant European telecommunication company Deutsche Telekom. This immediately gave MetroPCS (NYSE: PCS) stock a push higher. Later in the same month, MetroPCS shares rose again as the CEO of Sprint-Nextel said he expects consolidation in the cellular carrier market. Sprint and T-Mobile both continue to struggle because of their modest subscriber bases compared to AT&T and Verizon. Each needs more customers. While MetroPCS is too small to survive on its own, its buyout would give either company the additional customer critical mass it needs.
8. The Oakland Raiders
The Raiders will play in the NFL next year. They just will not play in Oakland. The team, founded in 1960, was one of the original members of the AFL and joined the NFL when the leagues merged in 1970. The Raiders won the Super Bowl in 1976, 1980 and 1983. The team’s track record has been poor over the past decade. The Raiders left Oakland once before, when the franchise worked out a better stadium deal in Los Angeles from 1983 to 1994. Oakland lured the team back with an agreement to add $220 million in improvements to the stadium where the team would play. One reason the team will leave Oakland again is the financial plans of the new owners. Al Davis had controlling ownership of the team from the 1960s until he died last year. His heirs and several smaller shareholders now control the team. Current team managing owner Mike Davis already has said he may move the Raiders back to LA to get a better stadium deal. The current Oakland stadium contract expires next year. Davis recently told the San Francisco Chronicle, “Yeah, Los Angeles is a possibility. Wherever’s a possibility. We need a stadium.” The Raiders also could move to Santa Clara, where they would share a stadium with the San Francisco 49ers, much as the New York Jets and Giants do.