There you go again. Sorry, last's night presidential debate put me in some sort of mood, but I'm not talking about Barack Obama or Mitt Romney here.
I'm talking about Best Buy (NYSE:BBY).
The company, cut to ribbons by the likes of Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Target (NYSE:TGT), and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), saw its stock rocket nearly 5% in trading yesterday amid takeover hopes.
There you go again.
Here's what happened. Reuters ran an article titled "Exclusive: Best Buy Founder Presses On With Buyout Plan." In it, Reuters said that Best Buy founder Richard Schulze is meeting with a consortium of private equity firms to examine Best Buy's books (if that doesn't make private equity firms scream and run from the room, I don't know what will) on their way to a possible coordinated bid. The bid could be as high as $11 billion, Reuters said, a number so astoundingly high that it could -- well, metaphors fail me on that one.
If this news sounds familiar, that's because it is. Ever since Schultze was picked up by the seat of his pants and the scruff of his neck in June and thrown out of the company he founded in 1966, he's been angling for a comeback. We had a couple of merger sightings over the summer, but it turns out -- well, who would want Best Buy at this point, besides Schultze?
And that's the operative point. Schultze has his legacy at stake. He's all about emotion here, which means he's willing to make a mistake. Shultze was banished from the company he built for not reporting an inappropriate relationship the former CEO had with a subordinate.
That's an ignoble end. Now he wants back in. He's has about $1.5 billion strapped to his holster and is looking for revenge.
The complicated part, of course, is tricking -- I mean, convincing -- private equity firms to put up the rest. After all, Best Buy is a hollowed-out carcass of a company.
In an industry that has been a graveyard of failed companies (and these private equity firms know this), the present day is the hardest time ever. Consumers look at consumer electronic stores as little more than showrooms. They play with the gadgets, then buy cheaper on Amazon or through shopping apps.
Best Buy's earnings have been described with a favored verb: plunge. Even on the top line, same-store sales are pointing to oblivion, down 3.2 % in the second quarter. That's eight out of nine quarters of declining sales, the type of performance that puts you on a one-way road to financial Palookaville.
Even Reuters allows that discussions are in the early stages and skepticism abounds.
Meanwhile, Best Buy is no longer giving forecasts and buying back stock as promised, so if this unlikely LBO isn't consummated it's "look out below" -- precisely why we suggest selling the stock on this hope-and-a-prayer strength.