Pulse Check Update: Blockbuster, Not Dead Yet

Jul. 8.10 | About: Blockbuster Inc. (BBI)

Most investors and analysts have written off Blockbuster Inc (BBI), but the beleaguered video rental business still has a pulse.

The latest rotten tomatoes: the ignominy of being delisted by the New York Stock Exchange, entering into a forbearance agreement to buy time from creditors, and being “unfollowed” by noted analyst Charles Wolf of Needham & Co. In effect the company appears to be operating as though it is in Chapter 11, even though it is not (yet).

Wolf said it appeared “inevitable” that Blockbuster would not be able to restructure without filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection which could actually help Blockbuster emerge much stronger.

“With a streamlined store structure, a viable kiosk operation, the closure of Movie Gallery … and a target market of over 20 million households that continue to rent at Blockbuster, the company should be able to operate at above breakeven,” Wolf wrote.

Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan is not quite ready to administer last rites to Blockbuster. He’s not convinced it will enter Chapter 11. He told the Dallas Business Journal he believes “Blockbuster is worth much more than the current enterprise value,” though that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement given its current 14-cent stock price.

He’s critical of the company’s branding on NCR Corp.-operated movie rental kiosks: “The most they are getting out of this is a 5 percent royalty. By putting kiosks in, all it does is to help them cannibalize their own business.”

Despite that doubt, he does see positives in the company. Pachter added that with Movie Gallery, the parent company of Hollywood Video, already in bankruptcy, Blockbuster now controls the standing-store space, for what that’s worth.

In a recent note, he said Blockbuster’s business (Express kiosks, VOD placement in third-party consumer electronics devices, mobile phones and cable network placement) is improving slightly, despite a challenging future.

Jason Ryder, an analyst with Third River Capital, also has a few good words for the company, if only as a consumer.“As a customer, I am positive about their subscription by-mail product because of the ability to have new releases delivered before Netflix,” he said. “I am looking forward to the video On Demand access to be added to the Xbox 360, Wii and Playstation 3, in addition to other equipment.”

“I continue to feel that BBI has many options, but concerned that the management team is not reviewing all of the options in the best interest of the shareholders.”