The New Year is almost here, and executives at some U.S. companies are glad 2012 is over. These are the firms that went off the rails, leading to large share-price losses.
For this story, we looked at the nine biggest share-price losers among U.S.-based companies with market values of at least $2 billion as of Dec. 28, using data from Fidelity.com. These companies had share-price drops of 44 percent to 78 percent.
Groupon Inc (GRPN) -78 Percent
The daily deals company has been listed for a little more than a year, and it has been a challenge, losing the most value of any company we looked at on a percentage basis. The Securities and Exchange Commission questioned the company's accounting practices, which led Groupon revise its revenue. The stock for the daily deals site continued to plunge after the company decided to retain its young CEO, Andrew Mason. The company is working to expand beyond online coupons, which has seen a host of competitors move into the space, stuffing consumer e-mail boxes with offers.
Hillshire Brands Co. (HSH) -70.6 Percent
The food manufacturing company, formerly known as Sara Lee Corp., decided the best way to revive the brand was to rename itself after its slumping nameplate, Hillshire Farms. The company spun-off its coffee and tea business and launched a revamp of the newly named Hillshire Brands. But that largely failed to impress investors. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company's meat business has seen a decline over the years from "a mix of price increases to cover commodity costs, stale product packaging and a heavy focus on cost-cutting." CEO Sean Connolly is attempting a turnaround by focusing on new products, and backing them with more marketing and advertising.
Apollo Group Inc. (APOL) -62 Percent
The Phoenix-based for-profit higher education firm, which runs the University of Phoenix, has been hit hard by slumping enrollment and more regulation, especially in federal student loans that have loaded many students with far more debt than they are able to repay. According to Zacks, an investment research firm, earnings fell at the company after enrollment at the group's flagship school dropped. The University of Phoenix announced that it will start more than 100 new partnerships with community colleges in 2013 to boost enrollment.
Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) -52 Percent
The largest coal mining company in North America swallowed a lot of debt after purchasing Massey Energy for $7.1 billion in cash and stock in 2011. Analysts at Morningstar expect the company to be impacted by its "hefty debt load" for years to come.
Best Buy Co. Inc (BBY) -50 Percent
The electronics company has been battered trying to compete in a low profit margin business where consumers are all too happy to "showroom" them by looking the goods over in stores, then buying cheaper online. Earlier this year, the company announced plans to trim stores and lay off employees and then CEO Brian Dunn stepped down after allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with an employee. Best Buy founder Richard Schulze has proposed a $24-to-$26 a share takeover, but no offer has materialized.
Marvell Technology Group (MRVL) -48 Percent
This chip maker lost a patent suit brought by Carnegie Mellon University, which won a $1.17 billion award by a federal jury. The jury found that Marvell sold semiconductors using technology developed at the school, but paid no license fees. The patents covered technology that boosts the accuracy with which hard drive circuits read data from magnetic disks. Marvell unsuccessfully claimed that the technology had been in use before the college applied for its patents. An appeal is planned.
Herbalife LTD (HLF) -54 Percent
Multi-level marketer Herbalife has been under attack from investor William Ackman, founder of Pershing Square Capital Management LP, who claims the nutritional-supplement maker operates as a "pyramid scheme." The company says Ackman has made a "malicious attack on Herbalife's business model based largely on outdated, distorted and inaccurate information." Ackman is a well-known short-seller, who makes money by betting a company's share price will decline. Herbalife has set a meeting for Jan. 10 with investors and analysts where executives will offer a "comprehensive response to investor questions on its business model."
JC Penney Co. (JCP) -45 Percent
Things couldn't have been much worse for the department store retailer this year, which grappled with an earnings, sales and share price rout after its move to cut the coupons and sales and offer everyday low prices floundered. It turns out that shoppers like the gimmicks, and store sales swooned. New CEO Ron Johnson has overhauled merchandise, the appearance of its stores and pricing. The strategy may be working as the shares picked up toward year end and Oppenheimer analysts Brian Nagel and Rupesh Parikh reaffirmed a "Buy" rating on the firm last week, writing that traffic in stores in the weekend before Christmas was strong.
Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) -44 percent
CEO Meg Whitman is struggling to turn the company around as PC sales decline and the acquisition of software firm Autonomy caused a write-down of $8.8 billion because of alleged accounting improprieties. But the company's woes aside, H-P took in more than $125 billion in the past year, second only to Apple Corp., and many analysts believe the sell-off has been overdone.