Friday, November 01, 2013

A Little Nibble Of The Whale On The Menu

If you have always dreamed of owning a piece of a publishing empire, the once mighty whale that was HMH-Riverdeep-Greenwood-and-who-can-remember-them-all is soon to be available for your dining pleasure. Small bites, like tapas, are going to be on investors' menus on 14 November.

Is it a treat worth buying, even at $14 per share, or is it still an overpriced offering that won't hold the initial price beyond the first rush, when the market movers snatch it up in the hopes that others will nibble on their leavings as they walk in and walk right out with more money than they came in with?

To be sure, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has seen a bit of a renaissance, after a debilitating series of sackings (also known as realized synergies) that shrank the once huge publishing houses. The merged corporation is hoping that buyers will see the bright side, and buy the stock as a solid investment that will yield some respectable returns. Not that HMH will gain a penny from the IPO. All the funds collected are going to pay off creditors who can't wait to get out from under the weight of the dead whale.

Before you jump in, you'll have to ask yourself how much you believe in CEO Linda Zecher. She has brought the struggling publisher through the bankruptcy process, but is that enough to put HMH on a solid footing going forward? Or has Houghton Mifflin Harcourt gone as far as it can go?

Some say that investing in stocks is little different from gambling, and there is a high element of risk in taking on a refigured company at a time when textbooks are not flying off shelves as local communities scale back purchases to rein in costs. But economies go up as well as down, and HMH stands to profit when the curve heads up.

That's the gambler's take when making a bet. There's such a surge of excitement while you wait for the outcome, to see if you've made the right call and you're about to come out a winner.

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