2023 marked significant ups and downs before kickstarting into a Santa rally that’s continued through today. While many companies adapted to shifting economic winds by tightening their belts and focusing on financials, others weren’t so successful and stand among the worst-performing stocks of 2023.
Higher interest rates put a lot of pressure on high-flying growth companies trading value for the dream of future upside. That pressure led to market-wide repricing as valuations fell back in line with something approximating a fair value.
And, during that repricing, some stocks performed worse than most. Those companies stand as 2023’s worst-performing stocks and have sunk some portfolios. If you hold these stocks, consider selling now to take advantage of tax-loss harvesting opportunities. If you’re considering adding them to your portfolio, hoping they’ll bounce back – don’t, because they won’t.
2U (NASDAQ:TWOU) is in penny stock territory as post-pandemic remote schooling trends normalized, pushing its value down about 85%. Worse, the company posted consistently poor financials, losing more than $47 million in the most recent quarterly report. Worse yet, its revenue projections dropped – with a unique twist.
Company CEO Christopher Paucek revised annual sales estimates downward to $965 million from a previous $985 to $990 million range. But some of that projected revenue comes from contract termination clauses, meaning schools pay 2U to cut ties. While that provides a brief top-line boost, it doesn’t bode well for long-term prospects.
Referencing one school, Paucek said, “We thank USC for the role they’ve had in helping us build our company [but] ultimately, the programs we agreed to exit no longer align with our platform strategy.” That exit he’s referencing includes a one-time $40 million payday or 5% of the company’s annual projected revenue. At the same time, it means no more cash coming from USC – or other programs.
AMC Entertainment (AMC)
There’s no excuse if you’re still bullish on AMC Entertainment (NYSE:AMC). Beyond meme stock status, the company’s reverse split and subsequent dilutive efforts demonstrate that they can’t meet shareholder expectations. Shares nosedived in light of that fact, dropping nearly 80% since January and nearly 98% from its 2021 high.
The company keeps bleeding cash while using emergency equity issues to staunch the wound. Its massive $5 billion debt is an increasingly costly proposition as interest rates rise. To keep those costs down, AMC just sold another 48 million shares. The company CEO, Adam Aron, took to social media to decry naysayers (also on social media). He posted on X “We realize that there are some who question these strategies in social media, and sometimes loudly. But they do not shoulder the responsibility of guiding a multi-billion dollar enterprise through highly challenging circumstances.”
While that’s a fair point, it doesn’t materially change the fact that AMC is one of 2023’s worst-performing stocks, and the near future doesn’t offer much hope for bagholding apes.
Electric vehicle (EV) stock Fisker (NYSE:FSR) is down nearly 80% this year, in a time where EVs are less popular but mega-manufacturers like Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) still posted a 100%+ gain. Poor sales and margins forced Fisker to slash production estimates in November, which might serve as a final nail in the coffin for the EV stock. Previously projecting 20,000 EVs (which isn’t great in and of itself), Fisker now thinks 2023 will mark just 15,000 cars pushed from the production line.
Notably, supply chain issues are putting massive downward pressure on Fisker, as the company can’t effectively ship products from overseas factories to US customers. But that isn’t the only struggle Fisker faces. Company CEO Henrik Fisker announced earlier this month that “I believe the negative reports about the company have been overblown” and that he “[believes] the current share price does not reflect our accomplishments and our long-term opportunities.”
From my perspective, as with AMC, any time a company CEO has to deny a wider market outlook about their company publicly, bad things are brewing below the surface.
Real Good Food Company (RGF)
Boutique packaged food company Real Good Food Company (NASDAQ:RGF) didn’t see investors hungry for its stock this year. Among 2023’s worst-performing stocks, shares are down a hefty 77% since January and trade below $2 today. Like AMC, RGF is issuing dilutive equity to keep the ship afloat but it might not be enough.
Competition in consumer staple stocks is steep. Customers can easily switch between brands and, critically, find lower-priced alternatives when shopping on a budget. That puts smaller food brands like RGF at a marked disadvantage as larger firms have the flexibility to offer value-based options.
That disadvantage is clear when looking at the company’s recent earnings. Its net loss climbed by more than 40% year-over-year as increased marketing and distribution costs cut into its bottom line. At this point, the company’s best bet is likely sourcing an acquisition to buy the brand and fold it into a larger organization. If not, this company, standing among the worst-performing stocks this year, might not make it past 2024.
Plug Power (PLUG)
Plug Power (NASDAQ:PLUG) is another former meme stock that fell on hard times. Shares are down 67% since January, with further pain likely coming. Like other physical goods-centric companies, PLUG is still navigating supply chain trickery. But those factors are impacting PLUG more than most, as an executive letter noted. Management told investors that the company’s operational standing “has been negatively impacted by unprecedented supply challenges in the hydrogen network in North America.”
Though the same letter claimed the pain is a short-term problem, PLUG is also “pursuing several debt capital and project-financing solutions.” This places PLUG firmly within the ZIRP-era companies that surged on low-interest rates but can’t hack it in a climate where debt is increasingly expensive.
That’s further evident by PLUG’s planned plant delays, now expected to open in 2025 rather than next year. Plant production demands high capital expenditure and often substantial debt. But, if PLUG can’t correct its supply chain issues to keep cash coming in, it might be buried under a mountain of debt before those plants open.
DISH Network (DISH)
DISH Network (NASDAQ:DISH) and other legacy television stocks suffered death by a thousand cuts this year as streaming and writers’ strikes cut into operational viability. The company suffered more than most though, and stands as one of the worst-performing stocks in the sector.
The company is set to close a deal with satellite operator EchoStar (NASDAQ:SATS), a desperate move to keep the firm afloat. The deal comes on the heels of a decade’s worth of dabbling in streaming and telecom. But both markets have steep competition and limited room for new entrants, and DISH ended up spinning its wheels in too many directions to be successful in any of them.
After the deal closes, existing DISH shareholders will enjoy a 69% stake in the new conglomerate. If you’re holding out for hope that EchoStar’s management can reorient its trajectory, I wouldn’t. Shares popped on the deal’s news, representing the best selling opportunity you might see for the foreseeable future.
Petco (NASDAQ:WOOF) stands at the intersection of two of 2023’s hardest-hit sectors: physical retail and pet stocks. Other pet companies like Bark (NYSE:BARK) had tough years of their own, while retail giants struggled amid slowed consumer confidence.
While pet adoptions likely slowed post-pandemic, putting pressure on Petco and similar stocks, the real issue is that many of the company’s highest-margin offerings are discretionary goods that consumers simply aren’t budgeting for.
Petco shares are down about 65% this year, mostly after a significant forecast cut by management. In the same move, CEO Ron Coughlin told investors that the “current economic environment means many consumers are increasingly discerning in their spending and actively seeking out more value.”
Of all the worst-performing stocks on the list, Petco has the biggest opportunity to rebound considering its brand position and physical footprint. Holiday shopping sales might help boost the stock before 2024, but this company has a long way to go in regaining its dominant retail spot.
On the date of publication, Jeremy Flint held no positions in the securities mentioned. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.