Wednesday Losers: Delta Petroleum, FTI Consulting, Xenoport


Among the biggest losers in Wedneday's early trading are Delta Petroleum (Nasdaq: DPTR ) , FTI Consulting (NYSE: FCN ) and Xenoport (Nasdaq: XNPT ) .

Top Percentage Losers --Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Company Name (Ticker) Intra-Day Price Intra-Day
% Loss
52-Week High 52-Week Low
Xenoport (Nasdaq: XNPT ) $6.51 -26.9 % $25.42 $6.35
FTI Consulting
$32.12 -25.8 % $56.41 $31.53
Delta Petroleum
(Nasdaq: DPTR )
$0.70 -11.0 % $4.68 $.67

*Table includes companies with minimum market capitalizations of $200 million and three month trading volumes of at least 100,000 shares. All percentage returns are listed as of 11:30AM Eastern Standard Time . Click on ticker symbols for up-to-the-minute price quotes and percentage gain data.

Delta Pete's Murky Mess

Shares of Delta Petroleum (Nasdaq: DPTR ) are slumping -11% in Wednesday trading. The company announced an abrupt change in the corner office, sending current President John Wallace packing. Investors greatly prefer to see smooth long-term management transitions, and are likely concluding that some bad business must have led the board of directors to move so swiftly.

But that may not be the main reason shares are falling below a buck. Instead, Delta Pete also announced that it is terminating a previous agreement to sell a minority interest in one of its development fields. The deal would have brought $400 million in the door -- badly needed funds at a time when this debt-laden firm has some big obligations coming due in the next 12 months.

Delta Petroleum has periodically popped up as a potential buyout candidate, and this morning's news presents a mixed message on that front. On the one hand, if buyout talks were underway, then current management would have stayed in place at least until the time the deal is done. Then again, backing out of the $400 million asset sale could have been at the behest of a potential suitor that wants all of Delta Pete's assets to itself. The deal may have also fallen through due to an inability of its potential investor, Opon, to line up enough loans to make the $400 million payment.

Action to Take --> This is an incredibly hard situation to assess. Shares are clearly undervalued on the basis of the company's assets, but the looming debt burden and seeming chaos at the management level present a great deal of risk. It is likely safer to stay on the sidelines with this one.


FTN signals Trouble for the Business Advisors

FTN Consulting (NYSE: FCI ) provides a whole host of advisory services to companies looking to do deals, avoid bankruptcy, get an edge on the competition or simply make sure that their internal technology platforms are up to snuff. So when the company warns that business is tough out there, a whole host of rivals -- from the purely M&A focused firms like Greenhill (NYSE: GHL ) and Lazard (NYSE: LAZ ) to the consultancy firms like Accenture (NYSE: ACN ) and IBM (NYSE: IBM ) -- might be also facing similar pressures.

In a possibly bad omen for this whole group as we head into earnings season , FTN has just lowered guidance. The company now thinks full-year sales will be roughly $100 to $200 million below the $1.46 consensus forecast and per share profits will probably be around -20% below the $3.09 consensus 2010 EPS forecast. That's causing shares to lose a quarter of their value, touching a three-year low.

Action to Take --> FTN lost roughly $500 million in market value today, and looks increasingly hard-pressed to deliver organic growth in this economic environment. It's unclear whether business will sharply rebound when the economy turns up. This is a fiercely competitive business, and growth must come from market share , which FTN appears to be losing at the moment. M&A is likely the only cure. Either FTN needs to go out and buy niche players to generate revenue growth, or it must entertain offers from possible potential suitors. For now, shares are dead money.


Xenoport's falling Fortunes

Shares of Xenoport (Nasdaq: XNPT ) are also shedding more than -26% of their value as the company announced that a key migraine drug did not prove to be especially effective in Stage II clinical trials. Management notes that the disappointing results may be the result of unusually strong results from patients taking a placebo. This gives the company hope that it can still further pursue testing for its drug. That sounds like wishful thinking.

But this is no one-trick pony. Xenoport actually has a range of drugs in development, including treatments for restless leg syndrome ( RLS ) and Parkinson's Disease. The migraine drug was targeting the largest potential market opportunity, but was not seen as the key drug by management. Instead, Xenoport's treatment for RLS, known as Horizant, suffered a setback when the Food and Drug Administration grew alarmed by an uptick in cancer tumors when it was used on mice, but the company still believes that it can move the drug forward in clinical trials.

Action to Take --> The one-two punch of the pair of disappointing drug results has pushed shares down from $50 to a current $6 during the past 20 months, highlighting the perils of biotech investing. We'll know by the end of the year whether management can salvage its development of these once-promising drugs, or if anything else in the pipeline shows promise.

-- David Sterman
David Sterman has worked as an investment analyst for nearly two decades. Most recently, he served as Managing Editor of, the premium website of David has made numerous media appearances over the years, primarily on CNBC and Bloomberg TV, and has a master's degree in management from Georgia Tech. Read More...

Disclosure: Neither David Sterman nor StreetAuthority, LLC hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ, Inc.

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This article appears in: Investing , Stocks

David Sterman

David Sterman

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