In the post-Enron world, even a hint of concern about a company's bookkeeping can give investors the willies. It's worse if the company has had some accounting issues, or if short-sellers have been saying something is seriously amiss.
But worst of all is finding yourself invested in a stock like this and not being able to do anything about it. That's the fix
shareholders find themselves in.
The video-game maker said shortly after the close Tuesday that it was postponing the release of fourth-quarter and full-year results, and that it was also putting off its conference call. Following that, the
said it had requested additional information from Take-Two, and that shares of the company would remain halted until that request was fulfilled. That trading halt remains in place. Take-Two representatives didn't immediately return calls seeking comment; neither did the people at Nasdaq.
History shows that extended trading halts are rarely the investor's friend. The most notable, and longest, halt in recent memory was in the stock of
, which didn't trade for over a month this summer after questions were raised about its accounting. When trading resumed in late August, the stock dropped 91%.
That's not to say anything similar is in store here. But as chronicled by our colleague Herb Greenberg on our
RealMoney.com commentary site, the New York-based company has seen its fair share of accounting intrigue and short-seller speculation in recent months. Yet Take-Two shares have more than doubled from late-September levels.
On Dec. 17, Take-Two said it would restate financial results from fiscal year 2000 and the first three quarters of 2001 to revise its revenue recognition policy. The question centered on how Take-Two accounted for products sold to third-party distributors and subsequently returned to the company. The company was subsequently named as a defendant in a raft of class-action lawsuits that allege Take-Two execs padded profits to boost the stock price for their own benefit.
Wall of Worry?
Investors had expected clearer guidance on the accounting matter Tuesday evening. But the company's delay in providing results, and the Nasdaq's subsequent halt (just what information it's seeking wasn't disclosed), could raise worries that things are even worse than they seemed at first blush. Such halts can play havoc with an investor's nerves.
Keep On Breathing
When you get an exchange-imposed trading halt in such a case, "You can't breathe and you try to see the best side of it and pray to God Wall Street will see the best side of it, too," says Jeff Matthews, head of the Connecticut-based hedge fund Ram Partners. "We're all control freaks. We're used to being able to do something." Matthews isn't involved with Take-Two stock as either a long or short.
"These things always make people nervous," adds Tony Cecin, manager of Nasdaq trading at U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, which makes a market in Take-Two stock. "The gut reaction from people these days is not to jump to the positive."
Meanwhile, Piper Jaffray's analyst on the stock, Anthony Gikas -- who rates the company a strong buy -- says investors shouldn't "jump to conclusions" on Take-Two. Not that, with trading halted, they have any say in the matter.