Updated from Feb. 13
, the conglomerate that has been fending off worries about its accounting for weeks, on Wednesday set plans to reassess its public relations strategy. The company's chief executive also appeared to back away from an ambitious plan to split the company into five parts.
Tyco began its foray into the brave new world of rigorous honesty by cutting its second-quarter guidance for the second time this year. Tyco now believes earnings could come in at 65 cents to 68 cents a share, well below the current consensus estimate of 76 cents. After the company
reported first-quarter earnings in January, Tyco projected earnings of 80 cents to 82 cents a share for the current quarter. At the time, analysts were looking for 86 cents.
The company's embattled executives have
repeatedly promised Wall Street straightforward disclosure about Tyco's bookkeeping, but investors and analysts have come away from earlier press releases and conference calls with the feeling they still weren't getting the full story.
That Tyco is now preparing for an all-out PR war may do little to quiet the critics, not all of them short-sellers, who contend the company's aggressive acquisition history has made it impossible to determine real growth rates. Earlier this month,
The Wall Street Journal
produced pieces showing that Tyco had spent billions of dollars in the last three years on hundreds of acquisitions that weren't discussed in press releases. The company defended itself by saying the deals were too small individually to be material, and that they were disclosed in filings with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
The company, which is incorporated in Bermuda while maintaining headquarters in New Hampshire, has been at the center of an ever-widening critical view of corporate accounting. It recently set plans to
break into four businesses in an effort to "unlock tens of billions of dollars of shareholder value" and, presumably, to provide greater insight into the goings-on at the constituent parts.
But according to published reports, Chief Executive Dennis Kozlowski now says the company plans to spin off or sell two of its units and retain ownership of two others and its core company if stock market conditions weren't right.
Much of what Tyco has done since the split-up announcement has had investors scratching their heads. Earlier this month, the company said it would turn to $5.9 billion of credit lines to pay down maturing commercial paper. Hours later, Standard & Poor's cut several ratings for Tyco and its Tyco Capital finance arm. The firm said it might change the ratings again, but added that the company had answered questions about its accounting practices "to Standard & Poor's satisfaction."
Days later, Kozlowski said in a televised interview that if he had it to do over, he wouldn't have pursued the acquisition of CIT Group, now Tyco's finance arm. The revelation that one of Tyco's directors received a $20 million payment to help close that deal certainly didn't buoy investors' confidence.
Time will tell whether Tyco's effort to set the record straight will pay off, but on the heels of the conference call, the stock was down $1.90, or 6.2%, to $28.60. Through Tuesday's close, Tyco has lost 43% since the beginning of the year.