The markets are off to the races again on the hope that France and Germany may have plans to recapitalize some of Europe's ailing banks. For optimists, these rallies may seem like a dream come true. For skeptics like me, they're opportunities to see whether companies trading near 52-week highs have actually earned their current valuations.
Keep in mind that some companies deserve their current valuations. The week began with a megamerger that saw Kinder Morgan (NYS: KMI) agreeing to buy El Paso (NYS: EP) for $38 billion, inclusive of debt. This deal will create the largest North American natural gas pipeline company and likely produce millions in synergy gains.
Still, other companies might deserve a kick in the pants. Here's a look at three companies that could be worth selling.
You can't squeeze blood from a turnip
A little more than a month ago, I tackled the highly sensitive topic of who would be right in the battle over Harbin Electric (NAS: HRBN) . After so many Chinese reverse-merger scandals and compelling research by Citron Research and many other notable sites, it seemed all but assured to many investors that Harbin would follow its counterparts deep into the red.
I, however, took a different approach, betting that the offer to go private at $24 per-share by its CEO would be enough to counter a massive short position. So far, I have been right.
But now I'm telling you that it's time to unclench your hands from the desk and let this one go. Sitting just 5% below the expected private buyout price, the chances that something could go wrong are simply too magnified and outweigh the minimal arbitrage potential. Do yourself a favor and let Harbin be someone else's worry.
What a sellout
I watched the news last week just waiting to hear about the muggingJ.C. Penney (NYS: JCP) put on Liz Claiborne (NYS: LIZ) when it agreed to purchase Claiborne's namesake makeup line for $328 million, but not a peep. I even checked my daily paper; there was no mention of a fire-sale in the classified section. But make no mistake about it: Liz Claiborne is desperate, and selling out to J.C. Penney -- as well as hawking its Dana Buchman brand to Kohl's for $40 million -- is proof of this to me.
Liz Claiborne plans to use the proceeds from these sales to pay down debt, but a considerably larger problem looms: profitability. The company hasn't turned a full-year profit since 2006 and has completely decimated shareholder value over that span with book value falling from $20.58 to negative $2.23 based on its latest quarterly report. The company's plans are to focus on luxury brands like Lucky Brands Jeans, along with a planned name change over the coming months. My advice to shareholders is to focus on a reliable antacid.
Just because a company is cloud-based doesn't mean that's a trigger word for a ridiculous valuation. Someone may want to inform shareholders of RightNow Technologies (NAS: RNOW) about this rule.
The cloud-based software company has exhibited impressive growth over the past few years, but its valuation may have eclipsed its own expectations. Currently valued at 13 times book, 46 times forward earnings, and a staggering 67 times cash flow, there's not much room for error this earnings season. Competition from sector peers including salesforce.com (NYS: CRM) is only increasing, so as growth continues to slow, I fully expect these valuation metrics to drop as well.
This week, it's once again as simple as the risks outweighing the rewards of being long these three companies. Whether its scandals, losses, or a lofty valuation, the upside potential in these stocks appears weak.
What's your take? Are these stocks sells or belles? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and consider adding Harbin Electric, Liz Claiborne, and RightNow Technologies to your free and personalized watchlist to keep track of the latest news with each company.
At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong and on Twitter where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong. Separate Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of salesforce.com and shorting shares of salesforce.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that never needs to be sold short.