Don't write off a buyout at Monster
A dive in the stock of the global jobs portal should attract more suitors.
If you look at recent press reports on Monster Worldwide (MWW), you would think nobody is interested in buying the company that has asked Bank of America (BAC) and Stone Key Partners to explore strategic alternatives, including putting itself on the block. That might be a short-sighted way of looking at the company that owns Monster.com, the Internet's leading career destination portal.
A Bloomberg report said some possible suitors, including Apollo Global Management, TPG Capital and Bain Capital of Mitt Romney fame, have passed on the deal. Maybe -- or maybe not. The company only says that a number of suitors have been given material information, and that discussions are ongoing, and it's still evaluating all options.
There's no fast route to any deal, but Monster's stock has been under pressure, tumbling from $10 in mid-March to $5.65 on Dec. 4, 2012. But the critical thing to note is the point where the stock stopped dropping. That happened on Nov. 16, 2012, when it fell to a low of $5.40 a share. Since then, it has inched up.
"We believe the shares have already hit an all-time low and a gradual recovery hereafter is on the cards," says Zacks Investment Research in a report issued Nov. 29, 2012.
Zacks has a near-term target price of $6.50 for Monster's stock. The company recently raised its recommendation on the stock to outperform from neutral. It notes that earnings estimates have moved up significantly after Monster reported better-than-expected results for the third quarter of 2012. It has undertaken a series of initiatives aimed at boosting profitability and cash flow, says Zacks.
"The restructuring actions include the sale of the China HR business and curtailing losses in developing markets," says Zacks.
Some big investors believe the stock's bottoming at $5.40 a share indicates some possible positive news coming -- either a sale of certain assets or of the entire company. Possible suitors who have passed on a deal could come back because of the sharp drop in the price of the stock -- and its recent upturn.
If the stock continues to rally, it suggests a deal is brewing. If the stock resumes its slide, it suggests something has gone wrong, but that doesn't seem likely as Monster is in discussions with some interested parties, say some analysts, including larger companies in the same industry.
Among the big shareholders are institutional investors, such as Eagle Asset Management, BlackRock and Commerzbank AG. They haven't been unloading shares, according to some Monster watchers.
Part of the reason is some analysts continue to have a 12-month price target of $8 a share, based on the historical range of the stock and the possibility of a deal. Robert L. Harrington of investment research firm Value Line, says that speculative investors may be drawn to the company's above-average capital recovery potential offered at the stock's current price.
"Also potentially alluring is he possibility of a buyout, which could value the company at a considerable premium above its recent trading price," says Harrington.
So don't count out a deal at Monster just yet.
Gene Marcial wrote the column “Inside Wall Street” for Business Week for 28 years and now writes for MSN Money’s Top Stocks. He also wrote the book "Seven Commandments of Stock Investing," published by FT Press.
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The offering could become the second-biggest this year if underwriters exercise an option to buy more shares.
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