GameStop shares plunge after it calls off search for a buye…

GameStop shares plunged nearly 30 percent Tuesday after the video game and electronics retailer said it had ended the search for a buyer, causing a share sell-off among investors who had expected a sale.

In June, GameStop’s board, along with outside financial and legal advisers, began looking for ways ways to boost the company’s shareholder value, including by selling the company. On Tuesday, the company said that review process was ending “due to the lack of available financing” with terms that a buyer would find acceptable. Part of the company’s eight-month review included a deal to sell its Spring Mobile business, which includes 1,300 wireless phone stores. That deal was completed this month for $735 million in cash.

Its stock price tanked more than 28 percent Tuesday afternoon to just over $11 per share. The drop was the most significant for the company in 16 years, according to Bloomberg.

The Texas-based company operates more than 5,800 stores across 14 countries and sells video games and consumer electronics. The company is also in the midst of finding a chief executive. GameStop’s longtime leader, Paul Raines, stepped down in November 2017 and died in March. His successor lasted only three months. An interim CEO, Shane Kim, has been in place since June.

Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush, compared GameStop’s struggles to find a buyer to those of someone trying to buy a house. A prospective buyer may think a house is worth $1 million, but a bank says it’s only worth $800,000 and is only willing to let the buyer borrow, say, $640,000. In the case of GameStop, Pachter said it’s likely that a private-equity firm wanted to “put very little down and wanted to borrow a lot, and the bank said ‘no.’ “

“The ‘commercially acceptable terms’ means the bank is telling the private-equity firm, ‘you need to put more money down,’ ” Pachter said.

In a report Tuesday morning, analysts from Consumer Edge Research wrote that GameStop would have been better positioned for a sale now than at any time in the past few years. Now that GameStop is no longer pursuing a sale, focus will shift on what the company will do with the windfall from the Spring Mobile deal.

“Our sense is investors wanted to see a significant share buyback announced” with the sale called off, the analysts wrote.

Pachter said GameStop could take that $735 million to pay down its debt load. As of Nov. 3, GameStop had $820 million of outstanding debt, $350 million of which carries an interest rate of 5.5 percent and is due Oct. 1. If a chunk of the Spring Mobile sale goes toward that $350 million payment, GameStop would have roughly $385 million left to repay the remaining $475 million in debt due — at 6.75 percent — in March 2021, according to Pachter’s Wedbush report.

In its most recent quarterly report, the company posted a loss of $488 million, compared to a profit of $59 million in the same quarter a year ago.

In the report, Pachter and other analysts wrote that now that GameStop is out of the mobile business and no longer looking for a buyer, its near-term focus will be finding a CEO who can help steer company forward. And the future isn’t all bleak. Pachter wrote that GameStop should benefit the most from the rollout of new gaming consoles in 2020 and 2021. It still dominates the video game industry when it comes to pre-owned products.

GameStop’s stock drop, analysts say, was most directly tied to news that the company ended its search for a buyer. But the company is also having to contend with changes to the retail landscape and competition from streaming video game services. Tech behemoths like Microsoft and Verizon are looking at how to replace game downloads with Internet-based game services, much like what Netflix and Spotify did with TV and music, The Washington Post reported this week.

On Monday, a report from Cheddar suggested Apple may be planning its own cloud-based gaming service. could be doing the same. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

But David Schick, an analyst for Consumer Edge Research, said GameStop has long competed with large retailers and online sellers. It’s not new for the investment community to consider “competitive forces at work and the implications for the long-term prospects of the company.”

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