Some investors love the world of low-priced stocks. Others avoid them like the plague. In the world of low-priced shares, the category of “penny stocks” is one that can be rife with opportunity, risk and more other factors than can easily be identified.
Blue Apron Inc. (NASDAQ: APRN) technically joined the realm of penny stocks during this latest downdraft in the markets. Despite the markets having been up handily on Tuesday, after a big drop in recent days, Blue Apron shares were down six cents at $0.945 on the day. And to add insult to injury, its shares even dipped briefly under $0.90.
What Blue Apron has to worry about now is its stock price. If its shares stay under a dollar for too long, it could face delisting from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Delisting is the industry term for “being kicked off the exchange!”
There are some remedies that companies can take to avoid delisting, but anything short of a recovery in the share price is often scrutinized by investors and short sellers alike.
Blue Apron had some 13.5 million shares held short in the last look, down from a prior short interest of 14.4 million shares. That represented seven days to cover at the time.
It is important to understand that a formal delisting does not occur immediately, and it does not mean that a company is no longer public. Still, it usually means that the shares are traded on one of the over-the-counter (OTC) mechanisms. Many individuals trade in these OTC companies, but many institutions are barred by investment policy from owning OTC shares.
Delisting rules also change from time to time. The rules for a NYSE delisting as of early 2018 included the price-sensitive ruling, which is for the share price to close under $1.00 for 30 consecutive trading days. If Blue Apron shares continue to dribble lower, then it would not be until late in January or early February that the NYSE would notify Blue Apron of its intent to delist the stock.
If Blue Apron shares, again “if,” remain at this sub-$1 price for the duration of the next 30 trading sessions, the company would have a chance to respond and it could simply opt for a reverse stock split. These efforts usually are not very well received by investors, and sometimes they bring in even more short sellers.
Even some Wall Street analysts had not given up hope on Blue Apron until very recently. It was just back on November 15 that Blue Apron was downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Guggenheim, and that was with a $1.17 share price ahead of the call.
Blue Apron tried in recent weeks to offer an upbeat forecast for cash flow and earnings into 2019. Unfortunately, that isn’t working, as its user base, customer acquisition costs and business model are just not viewed the same as they were before Blue Apron came public.
Blue Apron debuted in an initial public offering at $10 per share in June of 2017. The company’s CEO at the time tried to up-talk the story with modern business terms and upbeat historical data. None of that has mattered, and that was then.