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Is It Safe? Unisys Struggles With Debt Load

Stocks in this article: UIS IBM HPQ

"Is It Safe?" is a daily feature by Ratings that looks at a company's risk-and-reward potential. Find out if your stocks are safe each morning at 4.

Unisys (UIS) called a timeout on Friday in its struggle to get out from under $759 million in long-term debt. Until the firm cleans up its balance sheet and the information-technology market picks up, its fate is uncertain.

On Friday, the company said it was able to extend its deadline for refinancing a chunk of loans to June 12 from May 31. The company wants to exchange notes set to expire between 2010 and 2015 for new 12.625% notes due in 2014 to maintain an important source of credit. Ratings

Once a pioneering mainframe computer maker known as Sperry Univac, Unisys now sells data-processing and tech support services to corporate and government clients. The shift from mainframe computers to servers has damped revenue, causing four straight years of losses.

Profits aren't on the near-term horizon for the IT services company, which has cut staff, benefits and research costs. After losing $5.09 per share in 2005, Unisys suffered deficits as high as 81 cents each year from 2006 to 2008. It lost 7 cents in the first quarter.

With shareholder equity of negative $1.4 billion, meaning its debt exceeds its assets, and long-term debt of $759 million as of March 31, a balance sheet clean-up is a life-and-death matter for Unisys.

J. Edward Coleman, who took over as chairman and chief executive officer in October, has been leading the firm's survival efforts. Coleman was previously CEO of computer maker Gateway, which he successfully restructured and sold to Acer of Taiwan.

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