2003 Top Ten: Explosions & Implosions
It was the best -- or, at least, better -- of times for stocks this year. The Dow Jones regained 10,000 and the Nasdaq Composite rose nearly 50 percent to approach 2,000. Jumps of 100 percent or more were easy to find among tech stocks, albeit because so many entered 2003 in the sub-dollar range (see LR Index Led Rally in 1H 2003). But bankruptcies continued to roil, and some big names managed to sink even further.
Here, then, is our summary of the year's most interesting winners and losers. Note that the criteria go beyond raw stock price. That keeps the "implosions" category from being dominated by liquidations and makes the "explosions" more meaningful. (Sorry, Digital Broadband Networks Inc. [OTC: DBBD] -- yes, you're up 1,100 percent, but you started at 5 cents per share.)
Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) up 100 percent, Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) up 265 percent, Avanex Corp. (Nasdaq: AVNX) up 330 percent. Not enough! It's the penny-stock underdogs that sported the spectacular gains. Some climbed back to respectability, others are still on the edge:
No. 5 Akamai Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AKAM)
- Jan. 1, 2003 price: $1.73
- Dec. 23, 2003 price: $11.14
- Change: +544%
Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONS)
- Jan. 1, 2003 price: $1.00
- Dec. 23, 2003 price: $7.53
- Change: +653%
FLAG Telecom Group Ltd. (OTC: FLHLQ)
- Jan. 1, 2003 price: $7.00
- Dec. 23, 2003 price: $94.63
- Change: +1,252%
Huh? Is that right -- or just some cruel echo of 1999?
It appears FLAG will cash out with an acquisition by Reliance Infocomm Ltd. that's expected to close next month.
Before breaking out the champagne for FLAG, though, consider this. The company's undersea network cost more than $1.2 billion to build. Reliance is grabbing it for just $211 million.
8x8 Inc. (Nasdaq: EGHT)
- Jan. 1, 2003 price: $0.22
- Dec. 23, 2003 price: $4.94
- Change: +2,145%
Carrier Access Corp. (Nasdaq: CACS)
- Jan. 1, 2003 price: $0.38
- Dec. 23, 2003 price: $12.32
- Change: +3,142%
Boardwatch, "Where can a little company go with a price of a few cents, apart from up?" Well... keep reading!
So what of those that didn't have a Carrier Access kind of year? We skipped those that vanished from the landscape (Com21, for example) but included a couple of prominent delisted firms. The year's most noteworthy decliners:
No. 5 Sorrento Networks Corp. (Nasdaq: FIBR)
- Jan. 1, 2003 price: $4.15
- Dec. 23, 2003 price: $2.90
- Change: -30%
- Sorrento Restructuring Finished
- Nasdaq Panel Okays Sorrento
- Rocky Start for New Sorrento
- Sorrento Bids for LuxN
- Jan. 1, 2003 price: $1.23
- Dec. 23, 2003 price: $0.79
- Change: -36%
Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK)
- Jan. 1, 2003 price: $0.84
- Dec. 23, 2003 price: $0.319
- Change: -62%
Separately, the SEC is investigating Redback's dealings with Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q), a move that's triggered the obligatory shareholder lawsuit.
- Redback Closes a Chapter
- Redback's Ready to Rise Again
- Redback Gets Reorg Approval
- Sources: Qwest Case Broadening
- SEC Digging Deeper at Redback
- Suit Filed Against Redback
- Jan. 1, 2003 price: $0.14
- Dec. 23, 2003 price: $0.0165
- Change: -88%
With the company awaiting bankruptcy approval, it's not really clear whether these MCI "shares" are worth anything other than being the playthings of pink-sheet investors, but it's all we had to go on.
And surprise! Even in the netherworld of the pink sheets, WorldCom wasn't worst, despite getting squashed into a black hole of investors' dreams. The year started with CEO Michael Capellas saying, "In 100 days, we're going to determine our future." Within those 100 days, WorldCom reported profits, filed a reorganization plan, and adopted the MCI name.
Nice start, but then came the fines and the criminal charges, not to mention outrage over a restructuring that vaporizes most of MCI's debt.
- Capellas Sets 100-Day Strategy
- Worldcom Turns a Profit in January
- MCI Settlement: What's Next?
- Reports: It Began With Bernie
- MCI Cuts Revenue Outlook
- Bankruptcy Boondoggle
- MCI's 'Creative Routing'
- The Week at WorldCom: Chapter II
- WorldCom Handed Rules and Writ
- WorldCom Presents Revival Plan
- MCI Suddenly Goes 'Soft'
- Jan. 1, 2003 price: Approx. $0.60
- Dec. 24, 2003 price: $0.038
- Change: -94%