Two "old world" companies recently reported great earnings. I am talking about Macy's ( M) and Walt Disney ( DIS). Both companies supposedly "didn't get it" a few years ago. They were assumed to be dying and soon to be dead. Digitalization of media and ecommerce were supposed to be their death knell. Both of these companies are highly dependent on discretionary consumer spending. Disney relies on vacation travel both domestic and international. Macy's was neither luxury nor discount, being left with a diminishing consumer base in the middle. Not so fast. Macy's and Disney proved how solid management, brand recognition and sticking to your knitting can pay off. Both of these companies were assumed to be a dying breed. I even made Macy's one of my worst run companies a few years ago. They are great comeback stories and I can kick myself for missing them. However, though there was plenty of other comeback stories I was able to latch onto such as McDonald's ( MCD), Ruby Tuesday ( RT), Ford ( F) and Apple ( AAPL), all of which I still have positions in. Remember AAPL a few years ago? The troika of Dell ( DELL), Hewlett Packard ( HPQ) and Microsoft ( MSFT) were digging the grave for AAPL. Who is laughing now? In the past few weeks both Hewlett-Packard (for Palm (PALM)) and Dell (for 3Par ( MSFT) announced acquisitions which the market was rather lukewarm on. Hewlett-Packard just lost its well respected CEO, Mark Hurd, who resigned as a result of a sexual harassment scandal. This of course begs the question: What other companies are being left for dead? Which are so mismanaged that you won't touch them with counterfeit money? It will take some hard work, introspection and new management to resurrect these companies. However, it is not an insurmountable task. Here are a few possibilities: Yahoo! ( YHOO): Jerry Wang managed this company into the ground. Carol Bartz is just jumping into the grave and covering the company with dirt. I am tired of her use of superlative adjectives when describing the company's "achievements" during company earnings conference call. She has delivered nothing, as far as I am concerned, during her tenure. Yet, Yahoo has great brand recognition and content. It has potential but not with the current team in place. Until they clean house, Yahoo is just a stock to short on rallies. Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ): This stock has gone nowhere in the last eight to 10 years. Thankfully the dividend payout has risen nicely over that period of time and now stands at about 3.6%. Coated stents were supposed to launch Johnson & Johnson to new heights. That turned out to be a false messiah.
Johnson & Johnson has grown by making several acquisitions on a large and small scale. This company needs to scale itself back, put in a more proactive management team and think forward not backward. It can be done but it will take the right person at the helm. Radio Shack ( RSH): Could you think of a company that has had more personalities than The Shack? Veterans will remember Radio Shack having its Tandy Corporation several decades ago. Radio Shack sold radio and electronic components for those at-home electronic engineers for many years. Then the company tried to become the store for battery solutions. Slowly it moved into consumer electronics and is now a big wireless retailer. Radio Shack needs to define itself. The company has to find the right niche that will separate itself from Best Buy ( BBY), Wal-Mart ( WMT) and AT&T ( T). Citigroup ( C): Citgroup has been tainted by the sins of its fathers. Now it is on the comeback trail. The behemoth that Sandy Weill, Robert Rubin and Chuck Price built has been in the process of demolition and renovation for over two years now by Vikram Pandit. Under Pandit the company has:
- benefitted from Federal Government bailout programs;
- split the operations into a good bank (Citicorp) and bad bank (Citiholdings) and reduced the exposure and assets in Citiholdings dramatically;
- sold off non-core businesses;
- entered into a partnership with Morgan Stanley (MS) over its Smith Barney Unit;
- and seen an improvement in credit risk metrics