FTSE 250-listed Cineworld (LSE:CINE) is seeing its share price endure a rollercoaster year. This is down to the Covid-19 fallout, which is unfolding in front of our eyes. Entertainment stocks have been hit hard. And Cineworld now tops the chart as the most shorted UK stock this year.
Shorting means investors bet against the company and profit when it fails. It’s a murky practice that can lead to extreme losses as well as gains for those with the deep pockets to try it. Investment Bank BlackRock is the main force currently shorting the UK stock market.
Cineworld share price drama
The Cineworld share price has been all over the place since March. It can be seen rising with every glimmer of hope, only to crash dramatically at every minor setback. November started well. Exciting vaccine news from Pfizer and Moderna brought depressed stocks back from the brink. The Joe Biden election win helped spur optimism, too. This led Cineworld’s share price to rocket as much as 95% during the first two weeks. But this honeymoon period was to be short-lived.
While the vaccine news is fantastic, it’s a while away from being implemented and in the meantime, Cineworld shares are set to suffer. The pandemic is back with a vengeance, with case numbers rising at a frightening pace.
Can Cineworld cling to a life raft until spring?
The rumour mill is busy today as a report landed that Cineworld is considering a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) as a last-ditch attempt to stay afloat until spring. Cineworld’s debt was astronomical before the pandemic hit, but it’s now a giant £6.2bn. To put that in perspective, its market cap is only £595m!
The CVA would give its a little breathing space to cut its running and property costs. It would also give it the opportunity to raise more capital if need be. Cineworld’s price-to-earnings ratio is now a desperately low 4, while earnings per share are 9p.
Landlord negotiations and jobs at risk
The group is reportedly negotiating a rent cut with many of its UK landlords. But one landlord, AEW, is suing it over an outstanding bill of £308k. It’s also in emergency talks with lenders after hiring a team of consultants from AlixPartners and PJT Partners to help it come up with a plan.
After full closure of all its premises from April to July, it was gradually reopening. But rising cases, new lockdowns and the delay of many Hollywood blockbusters has led Cineworld bosses to close all its UK and US cinemas in recent weeks. This puts 45,000 jobs at permanent risk. The US is by far its largest income generator, and the Covid-19 situation is becoming more serious there by the day, making this the most difficult period the cinema chain has had to endure in its 25-year history.
Kirsteen has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.