Poker may be one of the hottest "sports" on television and the Internet, but you wouldn't know it at WPT Enterprises Inc.
The Los Angeles-based producer of the World Poker Tour and the eponymous TV show has been dogged by poor earnings.
WPT in November announced a third quarter loss of $1.6 million and is expected to report a fourth quarter loss soon.
Meanwhile, there's an ongoing Securities and Exchange Commission investigation related to an unsolicited bid, although it is not focused directly on WPT.
The SEC last week announced another subpoena, which came in the middle of WPT's annual all-star tournament in Atlantic City, N.J.
The SEC investigation, moving forward in Fort Worth, Texas, is looking into whether professional poker player Doyle Brunson, 72, violated securities laws in an unsolicited $700 million bid to buy the company in July. The price was nearly twice WPT's market capitalization.
Brunson's bid sent shares up 50 percent to a 52-week high of $29.50. But then his lawyers stopped returning WPT calls for more information after the offer was sent, and stock prices took a dive, raising questions about whether the bid was a ploy to inflate the stock price.
The bid came while the company was enjoying the popularity of its show on the Discovery Communications Inc.'s Travel Channel and stock prices in the teens, after debuting at $8 per share less than one year earlier.
But after buying five or more episodes of the popular show, the Travel Channel bought just one in the quarter after the Brunson matter and WPT revenues plummeted 29 percent. Then the SEC investigation was announced Dec. 16.
Fourth quarter results are also expected to be low, but recently the WPT cut a new deal with the Travel Channel and sold four episodes in the fourth quarter and a record 16 are expected for the first quarter 2006.
"I think the fourth quarter will be a little better than the third, but I think the following quarter will be significantly better," said Clint Morrison, an analyst with Felt & Co.;
Still, the government's investigation doesn't show any sign of slackening. The SEC said Wednesday that it served new subpoenas on Brunson's Web developer.
WPT, which has not been hit with any subpoenas, said it is fully cooperating with the investigation, but otherwise Chief Financial Officer Todd Steele declined comment.
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