NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- John Travolta's movie "Saturday Night Fever" made the Bee Gees' song "Staying Alive" more famous than it should have ever been in my opinion. Not that it was a bad song; I've just never been a fan of disco.
However, I am a fan of beaten down stocks that make excellent turnaround stories -- particularly those on Wall Street where the odds have been stacked so heavily against them that any improvement makes it look like they are doing great, when in fact they are merely just "staying alive."
Companies such as
Research in Motion
have fallen from so far that each earnings report is considered a "victory" if it comes in "less bad" than Wall Street expected. Like many other names including
and perhaps even
these once proud market leaders are now on life support until they get their big break.
However, I'm now realizing that for them, a turnaround is just no longer possible -- as where it once required only a change of fortune, it now requires a changing market. So as they continue to sing the tune of "staying alive," I think a more applicable theme just might be "the walking dead."
The main consistency you will find with at least four of these five companies is excuses -- particularly about the economy's effect on their businesses. Nokia is the exception; I have rarely heard excuses from that camp.
All of these names are now on life support for their repeated failures to adapt to a changing market. One can argue it is somewhat premature to place Sirius in this category. Despite a remarkable turnaround story since the brink of bankruptcy in 2009, Sirius has never demonstrated to the market that it can be anything other than the "little engine that thinks it can."
To Sirius' credit, it has done a great job at selling its recovery to investors -- many of which have become investors for a myriad of reasons, not least because the stock trades at what many would consider cheap. While these investors are busy counting the number of shares they have, they are ignoring that
is about to
-- Sirius' bread and butter.
Sirius has so much invested in its satellite infrastructure that it would be difficult to suddenly switch to a focus on IP -- even when IP represents the only way forward. It is a tough situation for the company to be in.
Be that as it may, I think in some capacity the company may be extended a lifeline once
comes in to do what everyone already assumes is the logical next step -- an acquisition, regardless of their highly publicized
RIM and Nokia
However, for Nokia and RIM, their fate has already been decided. In RIM's case, Morgan Stanley Monday downgraded the stock to underweight and offered a $7 target, with this comment:
We believe the fundamental story at RIM is essentially broken. In this volatile cocktail of a situation, and in light of our experience with Motorola prior to its strategic split 18 months ago, we are more comfortable rating the stock Underweight as after all the inevitable ups and downs to come in the stock, we believe the long-term value of the business, by the time anything strategic can actually be worked out, is still below the current level of the stock.
As bearish as Morgan Stanley may have sounded to you, I think they are still overvaluing the company by $2. A few weeks ago, I asked
and listed both
. What may have appeared as farfetched then, may soon become prophetic; either company will be able to scoop up the remains of RIM for pennies on the dollar.
For that matter, they may now be able to pick which part of the company they want since according to a
report, RIM is considering splitting its businesses in two -- separating its handset manufacturing division from its messaging network.
The sad part about all of this is that the company has not stopped trying, no matter how grim things appeared -- for that, it deserves a bit of credit. Unfortunately "effort" increases neither market share or market cap -- two things investors really need at this point.
The reality is the company's one-time dominance is over. Its fall was the result of stubbornness, not wanting to adequately adjust its focus to where it truly belonged, on the consumer -- now death awaits.
Faithful investors continue to blame everyone else except the company's management -- who bet everything on its BB10 OS that appears to have also died before it was even born. RIM's investors need to understand what exactly is going on with this company and realize that the prudent thing to do is to quit while we're ahead. And as a sign of how embarrassing the situation has gotten, its status has even fallen below
-- another dead stock.
Nokia, by virtue of its partnership with
, may not die completely. It may never really live again either, as it has lost almost 80% of its value over the past five years and continues to burn through cash like nobody's business.
Making matters worse, major rivals Apple and
have not made enough mistakes to present it with an opening or a glimmer of hope.
That said, I am more than willing to give the company quite a bit of respect for staying alive as long as it has. The company came from having almost 50% of the global smartphone revenue in 2007 to less than 5% today, yet with no meaningful signs of recovery.
In each situation, the management of the companies has failed. Though macro events may have played a role, the main culprit was an inability to be forward looking and adjust to consumer demands.
For Nokia, its recent
was a revelation about just how dire the situation has become. The company announced a loss of 1.34 billion euro which translates to a loss of $1.7 billion in U.S. currency. Compared to the same period of a year ago, it has suffered a decline in smartphone sales of 52%.
For Sirius, it's only a matter of time before Liberty scoops it up; the business may or may not remain intact.
As for RIM, it continues to cut forecasts every couple of weeks and if it stays above $5 for the balance of the year that would be a moral victory.
Investors would love a Lazarus-type of a recovery. But it's not going to happen --
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL and held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned, although positions may change at any time.