Mirant ( MIR) has thrown some new and complicated figures at investors long deprived of any numbers at all. A week after filing three years' worth of financial statements, Mirant followed up on Wednesday by providing financial guidance for the future. But by using an unfamiliar metric, the company left information-starved investors in the dark again. The company said it expects to earn $800 million in "adjusted EBITDA," a nonstandard measure of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, this year. But Mirant offered no traditional guidance for earnings per share, as it has in the past. "The company believes adjusted EBITDA provides a more meaningful measure of the company's underlying operating performance," Mirant stated in a prepared release Wednesday. The market seemed hesitant to embrace the new figure. The stock dropped more than 5% to $2.99 before it bounced back to within a nickel of Tuesday's $3.17 closing price on Wednesday.
Even analysts found themselves grappling with Mirant's guidance. As soon as the company began taking questions during a conference call that followed Wednesday's announcement, a UBS Warburg analyst asked Mirant to translate adjusted EBIDTA into some kind of operating cash flow estimate. The company instead offered a complicated formula that might approximate that figure. In essence, Mirant told investors to subtract a number of factors -- including deferred purchase costs, restructuring charges, equity income from affiliates and interest expenses -- to determine what might be left as operating cash flow. "We purposely stopped above the line," CEO Marce Fuller said, explaining that Mirant is waiting to finalize a refinancing package -- the biggest assumption in its current guidance -- before it fine-tunes its projections. Without that financing, Mirant warned in its long-awaited annual report last week, the company could be forced to seek bankruptcy protection. For now, the company is relying on bank waivers -- excusing a high debt ratio triggered by huge charges last year -- to provide a few more weeks to hammer out a final $5.3 billion financing deal. The waivers expire May 29 but can be extended through the middle of July.