Tuesday, October 06, 2009

How close is CBS to bankruptcy?

Not to belabor the CBS meme, but Business Insider's Henry Blodget offers some cautionary notes regarding the network's tenuous financial condition ("Is CBS Really Going Bankrupt?"). The phrase "stick a fork in 'em" comes to mind.

Two weeks ago, we noted that CBS had been pinpointed by Audit Integrity as one of 10 big companies at risk of bankruptcy... This prompted an outraged denial by CBS... Here's the bottom line:

...CBS has ...blown billions in recent years stupidly buying back its own stock at much higher prices--shareholder value destruction at its finest.  So the company's weak financial position is very much of its own making.


Here's a snapshot of CBS's current financial position:

Cash: $341 million
Debt: $7 billion
That's called leverage!

Meanwhile, CBS's cash flows have been precipitously declining:

2006 Free Cash Flow: $1.5 billion
2007 Free Cash Flow: $1.7 billion
2008 Free Cash Flow: $1.7 billion
2008 Free Cash Flow (through June): $1.4 billion
2009 Free Cash Flow (through June): $250 million

In other words, cash flow for the first six months (operations less capex) dropped from $1.4 billion to $250 million in a single year.  CBS had better hope those trends don't continue.

Blodget believes that a near-term bankruptcy probably isn't the cards for CBS -- unless the economy continues to worsen.

But, he concludes, it "is in a weak and deteriorating financial position, however. And this condition is in large part due to its own stupidity."

Meanwhile, the sole center-right television news outlet -- Fox News -- is absolutely pulverizing its competition (September ratings from Mediaite [PDF]).

And, rather than pushing its news operation's viewpoint closer to the center, CBS instead continuously attempts to discredit the conservative media.

Fortunately, those efforts are about as effective as President Obama's policies. Which is to say: they're Rather-iffic!

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