What it is:
A turnaround occurs when a company takes successful steps to correct a period of deteriorating financial performance.
How it works (Example):
To turn a business' financial results around, companies often obtain special financing for revitalization projects or hire managers with a proven track record of improving the financial results at struggling companies. Famous "turnaround" CEOs include Al "Chainsaw" Dunlap, who was hired in 1996 to turn Sunbeam around, or Jacques "The Knife" Nasser, who was tapped in 1999 to revitalize operations at Ford (NYSE: F).
Turnarounds frequently involve stabilizing the business and then cutting costs, reducing the workforce, selling superfluous assets, divesting entire divisions, retiring excess debt, and/or dramatically changing how the company markets or sells its products. In some cases, turnarounds also involve filing for bankruptcy in an effort to reduce/restructure heavy debt loads.
Why it Matters:
Turnaround efforts can be risky and don't always end in success. According to a Harvard Business Review study, about 70% of all turnaround efforts fail. However, some companies -- like MCI and K-Mart -- have emerged from bankruptcy, addressed critical problems, and made gradual improvements.
By definition, companies in need of a turnaround have reported declining financial results, and many have seen their shares collapse as investors lost faith and sold their positions. As a result, companies seeking to turn around their operations often trade at a sharp discount. Such firms often capture the attention of value investors, particularly when there is a strong possibility that turnaround efforts are likely to deliver improved financial performance in the near future. In fact, the mere announcement that a company plans to engage in turnaround efforts often results in an increased stock price.