It’s official: American Residential Services (ARS) has hit the bottom of the barrel. ARS’ stock plummeted more than $25 per share to just under $3 in late September on news the company was not performing up to expectations.
After hitting its high of $28.75 on Jan. 8, 1997 on the New York Stock Exchange, ARS - one of the largest consolidators in our industry - slid into a funk that has carried it to near oblivion. The company announced a fourth quarter loss in 1997 that helped fuel the tailspin.
"It’s not an indication of our financial stability," said Jennifer Tweeton, an ARS spokesperson. "Financially we’re doing fine. We’re still strong."
The decline in stock prices is primarily due to a revenue problem, Tweeton said. "We didn’t grow internally as much as we needed to."
Considered a "buy" by several mutual fund managers when the stock first came out in 1996, the company has been plagued with managerial problems. Further showing its problems to Wall Street, ARS announced its earnings to be significantly lower than expected for the third quarter.
In a company statement, ARS reported earnings of $3.59 million, or $0.24 per share, on $109.5 million in revenues. Analysts on Wall Street were expecting ARS to report earnings of $0.30 per share for the third quarter.
Tweeton said the company is not focusing on the daily stock prices. "It’s a disappointment so far," she added. "We’re going to slow down our acquisition rate until we pick up the pace on our internal growth."
The company said it has formulated a plan to consolidate management and administrative positions, which will further reduce costs. ARS also plans on more marketing and focusing stronger on customer retention.
One of the main problems ARS has experienced with its more than 90 companies is name recognition, according to industry experts. Out of all the consolidators, ARS most aggressively pursued changing local company names to the national name. The plan appears to have backfired, which is why ARS is re-emphasizing on the grassroots market.
"By establishing a smaller, more focused management team that has already proven itself; by committing to specific targets for that team along with accountability for those targets; and by intensifying our efforts at all levels of management, I am confident we will see improvement in the performance of this company," said Thomas Amonett, president and CEO.