Commentary

RadioShack Faces Grim Future With Possible Bankruptcy Filing

Strapped for cash with its turnaround plan sputtering — Weird Al Yankovic’s “Toyland” holiday cheer notwithstanding — RadioShack is considering a bankruptcy filing as early as next month, the Wall Street Journalreports in a story that is generating angst among common shareholders, not to mention nostalgic geeks

For its part, RadioShack has not commented on a rash of recent stories speculating about its future (or lack thereof). However, “the Fort Worth, Texas, company has reached out to potential lenders who could help fund its operations during the [bankruptcy] process,” a source tells the WSJ’s Matt Jarzemsky, Mike Spector and Drew FitzGerald. 

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“Meanwhile, RadioShack is in talks with a private-equity firm that could buy its assets out of bankruptcy, the people said. They cautioned that the talks with the private-equity firm may not produce a deal and that the company may try instead for a more typical reduction of debt and restructuring of its operations in bankruptcy court,” write Jarzemsky, Spector and FitzGerald. 

This is not a shock to Wall Street or the consumers who have been turning to cheaper, more convenient sources for their gadgets, cables and transistor radios for some time now, of course, and the company’s own language was been downright “apocalyptic” since the fall of last year, as Justin Meyer blogged in the Washington Post Tuesday.

“We may not have enough cash and working capital to fund our operations beyond the very near term, which raises substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern,” RadioShack warned the Securities and Exchange Commission in September.

Meyer was writing about an earlier Wall Street Journal piece that reported that Salus Capital Partners, a hedge fund based in Needham Heights, Mass., that has had a “sometimes contentious relationship” with the retailer, had offered the company $500 million in financing if it should wind up in Chapter 11.”

That would, naturally, significantly increase Salus Capital Partners’ influence. The offer reportedly expires today, when the retailer faces another key deadline. It “must be able to show that it has at least $100 million of cash and borrowing capacity … in order to comply with conditions set out under the terms of its amended senior-secured asset-based credit facility,” writes Rachelle Kakouris on Forbes.com.

“[Salus] is the same lender that RadioShack has been fighting with for the better part of a year,” wrote Steve Kaskovich in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram story reporting that Radio Shack shares had jumped 20% on the news. “Salus was among the company’s lenders that essentially blocked a plan laid out by CEO Joe Magnacca last March to close as many as 1,100 underperforming stores by refusing to give consent,” Kaskovich pointed out, limiting management to the 200 closures per year stipulated in the loan agreement.

“While the headlines suggest a long-standing problem (a lack of liquidity) for RadioShack could be solved by the $500 million loan, it’s a back-handed offer that in some ways acknowledges that RadioShack stock is just as dead as Bernie Lomax,” writes James Brumley for InvestorPlace.

If you know the 1989 movie “Weekend at Bernie’s,” you catch Brumley’s drift. If you don’t, Brumley suggests “Salus knows — or should know RadioShack is dead and that they’re simply throwing money at a corpse, knowing it can’t be saved, but needing to convince the company that it still has faith in the turnaround effort.”

Talk about kicking a chain when it’s batteries are out of juice.

“Once upon a time, RadioShack bragged about its network of stores, saying that 90% of the U.S. population lives or works within a few minutes of one of its locations. But today, when people can easily order the items online, those brick-and-mortar stores are dead weight,” Katie Lobosco and Chris Isidore observe for CNNMoney. “The stores are so close to one another they are essentially competing with themselves and are dragging the company down to its third straight year of losses.”

Last month, RadioShack CMO Jennifer Warren, who was credited with moving its “TV ads to an edgy tone with a music video from Robin Thicke’s single ‘Blurred Lines’ and a host of pop cultural characters from the 1980s” in a well-received Super Bowl ad last year, left the company, Maria Halkias reported in the Dallas Morning News. The spot “failed to bring in more customers and sales,” however, and there is scant indication of marketing plan that might reverse the trend of 11 losing quarters.

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