Tyco Unable to Stop the Selling

Investors continued to unload shares of Tyco International ( TYC) Tuesday, a day after Standard & Poor's lowered its ratings on the company's debt and questions arose about the company's disclosure practices.

Around midday, Tyco was losing $6.37, or 17.9%, to $23.53. Tyco has been under selling pressure in recent weeks as questions emerged about the company's accounting practices. The company has been at the center of numerous reports and discussions about corporate bookkeeping that followed the collapse of energy trader Enron ( ENRNQ). The Monday closing price of $29.90 left the stock almost 43% below where it started 2002.

Fair or not, Wall Street is looking at companies like Tyco with a jaundiced eye. Tyco employs complex accounting procedures, partly as a result of acquiring dozens of firms every year. The company has defended its practices, but the skeptics haven't been convinced.

In January, the company decided to break itself into four separate businesses. The breakup plan came a week after Tyco beat analysts' first-quarter earnings expectations by a penny but warned that second-quarter profits would fall short of the consensus estimate.

Following the company's plan to split apart, the stock continued to slide until Standard & Poor's said on Jan. 30 that Tyco had answered the firm's questions about its accounting. That same day, Tyco's chief executive and chief financial officer said they would each buy back 500,000 of the company's shares. Of course, less than a week later, S&P, while still saying Tyco had sufficiently explained its accounting, cut its debt ratings.

Just hours before the debt downgrade, Tyco said it would repurchase $4.5 billion of commercial paper. To fund the purchases, Tyco plans to borrow from a bank credit line of $5.9 billion. The move will reduce earnings by up to 2 cents a share in fiscal 2002, the company said.

In short, the questions don't seem to be going away. Last week, RealMoney.com reported that Tyco had made billions of dollars of acquisitions that weren't discussed in press releases. News of the acquisitions was subsequently reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The company denied that it had hidden any deals, saying that the information was disclosed in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and that the acquisitions weren't material to its overall financial condition.

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