Don’t Play Best Buy’s Game Anymore

by Kyle Woodley | October 3, 2012 2:27 pm

I feel like I’m stuck in a Barenaked Ladies song[1].

Today, Best Buy (NYSE:BBY[2]) founder Richard Schulze and a cadre of private equity firms are reviewing the retailer’s financial records[3] — with expectations that Schulze plans to make a new bid to take BBY private.

You can call it a game of tug-of-war or cat-and-mouse. Off the record, I’ve called it some cruder things I won’t repeat here. Whatever you want to call it, the Best Buy buyout saga just won’t die … and despite today’s seemingly positive news, any investors still hanging around in BBY should take today’s quick pop as an opportunity to finally get clear.

This time, the bid price being whispered about by “sources” is $11 billion — about 80% more than BBY’s current worth as measured by market cap. Thus, I won’t linger on why board acceptance should be a no-brainer if a deal comes to pass. Instead, I’ll just point out two things:

1.) Look at this two-year chart of the S&P 500 (black), RadioShack (NYSE:RSH[4], blue) and Best Buy (yellow). Notice a trend?

RSHBBY Don't Play Best Buy's Game Anymore

2.) Chalk up that performance to this: Best Buy essentially is a larger (though thankfully cleaner) RadioShack. They’re both bricks-and-mortar businesses specializing in electronics, which happens to be just the right positioning for a spanking across Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN[5]) knee. Not to mention that big-boxes like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT[6]) and Target (NYSE:TGT[7]) also have wrested away some of the consumer electronics action.

The writing is on the wall, and Wall Street has been reading it. BBY’s board can’t possibly think it has a doubler on its hands under any other scenario. If a check shows up, they should take it and run[8].

If you’re an individual investor who’s somehow still in BBY, though, the decision is a bit more involved.

In the best-case scenario that Schulze and his private equity army check out the books, everything gets green-lighted and an $11 billion bid is made, that would be an offer of roughly $33 per share. That means investors who got in (then stayed in) as long ago as early 2011 would be breaking even, and — please sit down for this — anyone who got in after that would somehow be profiting on a BBY buy-in.

But before you get too randy, let me show you one more chart:

BBY Don't Play Best Buy's Game Anymore

What you’re looking at is BBY shares from Aug. 3 through today. The spike on Aug. 6 occurred when Schulze first reported his interest in buying the company, and BBY peaked at 15% gains by Aug. 17. Everything after that reflected the waning possibility a deal would actually go through. Including today’s 4% run, Best Buy stock has given up all its gains since Schulze’s plans came to light.

This is the catch.

If you’ve got plenty of irons in the fire, plenty of money in the bank and your investment in BBY is wholly speculative, stick around — you might just be able to finance that weekend in Ibiza. Otherwise, consider this:

There’s no guarantee this deal will go through, either, and today’s pop isn’t nearly what we saw the first time around. Meaning if Schulze & Co. balk for the second time in nine innings, Best Buy stock could be breaking out the shovel. And that’s a legitimate concern. Consider this from Reuters[9]:

“For a group eventually to come together, the private equity firms and Schulze will need to come up with a credible strategy to stop the bleeding at Best Buy and turn around its fortunes.

Some people close to the private equity firms said they remained skeptical of the prospects of a successful deal even as they continued to [delve] into Best Buy’s confidential financial information, which they find of particular interest given their other retail investments.

Sales at Best Buy stores open at least 14 months fell 3.2 percent in the company’s fiscal second quarter ended August 4, the eighth decline in the last nine quarters.

Same-store sales were down 1.6 percent in the United States and 8.2 percent internationally. Best Buy owns Five Star, which has 204 stores in China.”

If the deal does fall through, you could argue that you’re still holding onto a stock that’s yielding nearly 4%.

I’d tell you to stop arguing. Then I’d tell you to put whatever money you have invested in BBY into, say, a utility stock instead — it’ll be writing you fat dividend checks far longer than Best Buy will, deal or not.

Bottom line: While some bricks-and-mortar businesses, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS[10]), have been able to combat (or even embrace) the e-tailing march[11], Best Buy hasn’t. It’s a failing business with no current concrete plans for turning things around, and its best hope is a too-lofty-to-be-true buyout bid from a guy who really fumbled the ball once already.

That makes it a speculative holding, akin to biotechs treating hangnails and kosher cupcake start-ups. Don’t risk further losses in an attempt to hit the stock lottery.

Kyle Woodley[12] is the Assistant Editor of InvestorPlace.com[13]. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Follow him on Twitter at @IPKyleWoodley[14].

Endnotes:
  1. Barenaked Ladies song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs3xXlXSOKk
  2. BBY: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=BBY
  3. are reviewing the retailer’s financial records: http://investorplace.com/2012/10/schulze-private-equity-firms-examine-best-buys-books/
  4. RSH: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=RSH
  5. AMZN: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=AMZN
  6. WMT: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=WMT
  7. TGT: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=TGT
  8. they should take it and run: http://investorplace.com/2012/08/come-on-schulze-put-up-or-shut-up-best-buy-bby/
  9. this from Reuters: http://money.msn.com/business-news/article.aspx?feed=OBR&date=20121003&id=15627830
  10. DKS: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=DKS
  11. have been able to combat (or even embrace) the e-tailing march: http://investorplace.com/2012/09/why-some-retailers-are-thriving-in-the-showrooming-era-dks-fl-cab/
  12. Kyle Woodley: http://www.investorplace.com/author/kyle-woodley/
  13. InvestorPlace.com: http://investorplace.com/
  14. @IPKyleWoodley: https://twitter.com/#!/kylewoodley

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