On Tuesday, August 18, 1992, Wang Laboratories filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. With sales revenues in fiscal 1992 falling below 1983 levels, and with a debt exceeding $1.5 billion, Wang President Richard Miller announced plans to lay off 5,000 employees, nearly 40 percent of the company’s work force. On Wednesday, August 19, Wang’s stock, which once sold for over $42 a share, was valued at just $0.25 a share.
Wang Laboratories was founded in 1951 by the late Doctor An Wang, inventor of the world’s first word processing machinery. Dr. Wang, a Chinese immigrant and Harvard Ph.D., quickly earned his reputation as an innovative genius and technological pioneer in the world of digital electronics and computer technology. More than anything, he prided himself on his ability to predict trends in the industry so as to always stay at least one step ahead of the competition. For three decades, Dr. Wang’s company was a global leader and trendsetter in word processing technology, and was a worldwide supplier of computer-based information processing systems. Technological advantages in data, text, image and voice processing, as well as manufacturing capabilities in telecommunications and network products, made Wang a leading multinational enterprise.
In 1982, Wang Laboratories, headquartered in Lowell, Massachusetts, had annual sales in excess of $1 billion with common stock trading as high as $37 a share. In the same year Forbes Magazine named Dr. Wang the wealthiest man in New England and one of the wealthiest in the U.S. Dr. Wang was not alone in his success. The company was tightly controlled by family members who held a majority of the company’s stock and a majority of seats on the board of directors.
Between 1982 and 1984, total shareholders’ equity more than doubled, reaching over $1.25 billion by the end of 1984. During the same period, net income grew at roughly 40 percent a year, and the company employed nearly 30,000 people worldwide. Financial data for the 1982-1991 period are contained in Exhibits 1-3. Additional information is contained in Exhibit 4.
In the early 1980s, personal computers entered the marketplace. Within a few years, PCs began to dominate the market of both new and repeat customers, frequently replacing Wang’s single function word processors as well as its midrange virtual storage (VS) computers, a major source of the company’s revenue.
As technological advances allowed competitors to continue to offer smaller, cheaper, and more efficient and versatile computers, Wang continued to develop and improve its core line of stand-alone, proprietary hardware.
In January, 1983, to help the company face the challenges of its new competition, Dr. Wang named John Cunningham as President. Cunningham had worked his way to the top through his outstanding performance in the sales force. His focus on marketing, sales and distribution complemented Dr. Wang’s focus on improving the company’s existing product lines. By mid-year, Wang’s stock prices reached an all-time peak of $42.50 a share, with a price-earnings . . .
- In what year do Wang’s financial problems become apparent from its financial statements? You should calculate some ratios to assist you in this analysis.
- What are the causes of Wang’s financial problems? How do the financial statements reflect these causes?
- What actions might management have taken to avoid bankruptcy? When should it have taken these actions?