Nobody is going to argue that the economy is moving along swimmingly. But as bad as things may appear to be, things are working out in corporate America. Most companies are making money. In fact, many Wall Street darlings are checking in with record profits this earnings season.
Then again, most doesn't mean all.
There are some notable companies that are dressing up their bottom lines in red rather than the more fashionably and fiscally acceptable black. These aren't obscure start-ups that have yet to ramp up or behemoths where one-time charges are blurring adjusted profitability, either. Take a look at who is losing money this year -- and possibly beyond.
Sprint Nextel (S)
The country's third-largest wireless carrier finally has the iPhone, but it doesn't have the iPhone profitability that its two larger rivals are enjoying.
Sprint has problems. You have to go all the way back to 2007 to find the last time that the leveraged carrier posted a quarterly profit, and it's also going to be a long wait for profitability to return. Analysts don't see Sprint returning to profitability until 2014 at the earliest. That's going to be a challenge for a company with $16.3 billion in debt on its balance sheet.
You don't need to see Pan Am on the air to know that airlines are back. Armed with juicy fees for checked bags, onboard meals, and entertainment, even the once-stodgy legacy carriers are bouncing back into the black despite pesky fuel costs.
All of the major airlines should close out 2011 with positive earnings but one – American, and American Eagle parent AMR.
Wall Street sees AMR losing a whopping $3.53 a share this year. The outlook after that calls for the air carrier to shave its deficit nearly in half come 2012 and post only marginal losses the year after that, but that also essentially pushes AMR's profitability out to 2014.
Airlines can be tough. Nimble players set the fares that the rest of the industry must follow. And they don't have the high salaries, chunky pension obligations, and older fleets of jets that need to be more actively serviced. In a year in which every publicly traded rival is profitable, you don't want to stand out as the profitless carrier.
Sears Holding (SHLD)
Sears used to invite shoppers to discover its softer side, but it's hard to find that when things are so, well, hard.
One can always argue that Sears and Kmart deserve each other as retail laggards, but the grim reality is that the combined company hasn't generated positive sales growth in years. Scrappier discounters nailed the "cheap chic" specialty, while reputation-puffing alliances haven't brought in the upscale clients that the meandering retailer desires.
It's not going to get any easier. Sears isn't expected to earn enough during its holiday quarter to offset its steep losses leading up to that point for the next couple of years.
MGM Resorts (MGM)
"The house always wins" is the old gaming adage, as casinos glam up gambling diversions where the odds are stacked in their favor. Well, MGM isn't winning. The company behind iconic Vegas casinos including the Bellagio, Luxor, and its namesake giant MGM Grand has been dealt a bad hand and it's playing it poorly.
The pros see MGM losing $0.53 a share this year. There are some MGM watchers on Wall Street that feel that the company may bet on black next year, but the consensus estimate shows MGM losing money until 2014.
Things may be hard in Vegas, but MGM's prolific peers are holding up just fine. Wynn Resorts (WYNN) and Las Vegas Sands (LVS) are comfortably profitable right now. Sure, they have promising properties overseas, but MGM has to be held accountable.
Rite Aid (RAD)
Running a drugstore chain seems to be an all-weather business. Folks still get sick during recessions, and the steady flow of medication refills should help offset any consumer spending fluctuations toward the front of the store.
Unlike its pharmacy competitors, Rite Aid isn't getting it done. The $6 billion in long-term debt and negative book value aren't helping. Losses should continue through fiscal 2015, as Rite Aid and its penny-stock share price have done a better job of attracting speculators than profitable shoppers.
Surely there must be some Visine available at its stores to help it -- and Sears, Sprint, AMR, and MGM -- get the red out.
Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any stocks in this article.