Is Yellow Truck Turnaround In Sight?

Mar.27.12 | About: YRC Worldwide, (YRCW)

YRC Worldwide (NASDAQ:YRCW) has been on the financial operating table for nearly half a decade now, and is currently trading at its 52-week low.

Like any such emergency patient, the nation's second-largest trucking firm has lost a lot of financial blood. (It's best-known for those Yellow Truck logos you may pass on the freeway.) It's one-half the size it once was. It nearly perished twice, in 2009 and again last year. Needless to say its financials are a horror show. How about losing $409 million last year on revenues of $4.87 billion. Ouch.

Yet there is hope. CEO James L. Welch, who has been on the job just nine months, knows the company well having started with it in 1978 when it was called Yellow Transportation, and he's been busy chopping down big expenses. Over the last several months, the company has gotten out of China, gotten out of overnight delivery and has been dumping a number of c-level executives who are no longer needed.

Despite this, Welch is not out of the woods. YRCW is expected to lose another $68.9 million this quarter, Credit Default Swaps (CDS) taken out on the company show an 87% chance of default, and Goldman Sachs, which was credited by former CEO Bill Zollars with helping it stay solvent last year before he left, is no longer making a market. Even its auditor has expressed "substantial doubt about the company's ability to continue."

The problem is debt. YRCW has $1.3 billion of it, and payments on pensions and debt will be almost $225 million this year alone. The company bet on growth and was left holding the bag big time when the Great Recession hit. Competitors have not been kind, pricing aggressively as YRCW lost ground.

Last year's fourth quarter illustrates the problem. YRCW actually turned a gross profit on operations of $602 million, but depreciation of over $248 million and "unusual items" of $864 million (dumping the garbage assets it could no longer carry), plus high gas prices turned that into a net loss of $964 billion.

So what's the bullish case? Revenue during that disastrous quarter was actually higher than analysts expected, at $1.212 billion. Welch said that if he can get a better handle on operations shipment levels, yield and profit should all head up. As with the U.S. government, growth can make even a large debt load manageable.

If you believe Welch is working for more than the paycheck (most of his compensation is in stock), that he knows what he's doing, that the economy is turning up and that fuel prices aren't heading up from here, then it can thread this needle and start making some serious coin later in the year.

That would definitely be reflected in a higher stock price. With shares currently at $7.45 each, you're putting money into a market cap of just $59.69 million, of which institutions own 37%. Your downside risk is limited to that figure, and your upside potentials are pretty good.

It's speculative, but if you're going to go in, now is the time. Now or maybe even a month or two from now, after even more of this bad news has washed through.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.