24/7 Wall St. has created a new list of brands that will disappear, which includes Readers Digest, Kia Motors, Dollar Thrifty (NYSE: DTG), Zale (NYSE: ZLC), Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI), T-Mobile, BP plc (NYSE: BP), RadioShack (NYSE: RSH), Merrill Lynch, and Moody’s (NYSE: MCO).
24/7 Wall St. regularly compiles a report of brands that are likely to disappear in the near-term. Last April, and again in December, we published our findings. Usually, it would take a full year before such a list could be compiled again. However, the current economic climate has accelerated this process and a majority of the brands on the first two lists are either gone, have been acquired, or have filed for bankruptcy. Last April, 24/7 Wall St. identified twelve brands that our analysis showed would disappear, including Saturn, Borders, Palm, AIG and Eddie Bauer.
We also accurately identified brands that would disappear in our December list.
The first brand on that list was Newsweek. The publication was founded in 1933. Parent firm, The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO), has given up on the magazine, which it has owned since 1961. None of the buyout offers made thus far seem to be serious. Closing magazines was in vogue during the depths of the recession. Newsweek has little chance of staying open.
Another brand on last year’s list was Palm. Its sales were so slow and its new mobile device, the Pre, sold so poorly that Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) was able to buy Palm for next to nothing. The Palm brand is so badly damaged that HP is likely to keep the technology and kill the name.
Borders Group (NYSE: BGP), which was also on the December list, is still in business – barely. The company has closed most of its Waldenbooks stores, gone through serial layoffs and has now had two consecutive majority shareholders. It recently fired a number of the people in its UK operation. Borders is burdened with $300 million in debt, and its stock recently traded as low as $.35. The company is outmatched by larger and more successful competitors, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE) were on our earlier list. We were wrong about them closing. They have become “wards of the state,” kept open by the US government to help maintain an orderly mortgage market. It is estimated that keeping the two firms open costs taxpayers about $7 billion a month. The companies lost a combined $291 billion in 2009. Members of Congress are pushing to have the companies shuttered. It is almost certain that they will not be around, at least in their current forms, much longer. One estimate is that the cost of supporting the two companies will total $1 trillion, making it more likely that they will be closed in the favor of other alternatives to maintain the mortgage market.
Another financial firm on our list, bond insurance firm Ambac (NYSE: ABK), warned last week that it may have to file for bankruptcy in the near-term. That news caused the stock to drop from a 52-week high of $3.39 to a $.51. Ambac’s stock traded at $96 three years ago.
Sun Microsystems failed so badly in its core server market that it was forced to downsize to the point where it was not a viable standalone company. It was sold to Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) for a fraction of what it was worth three years ago.
We also completely missed the mark on a few companies. They include Eastman Kodak, Motorola, and The GAP’s Old Navy brand.
With a number of the brands on the December list either gone or on a short-term path to extinction, 24/7 Wall St. has put together the latest version of the Ten Brands that Will Disappear. To qualify, we expect that brand to be gone by the end of 2011, or for its parent to be sold or go into Chapter 11.