Gulf Finance House (GFH) this week reached its lowest level since going public in 2004, bottoming at 26 US cents, or slightly more than a US quarter. And for good reason: the Bahrain-based Islamic bank's problems have been the subject of a series of negative headlines of late. In March last year, the stock was trading at $2.70.
Like many executives in the region in the past 18 months, Ted Pretty, the acting chief executive, has been faced with a myriad of tough choices. When sales slump, loan defaults pick up and the value of investments nosedives, executives must decide what to do next. Do I admit to my shareholders and the public that my business is worth less than before? Do I confess the losses? Or do I take a third way out, burying my troubles in a time capsule, hoping that a recovery will be well under way by the time I have to dig it up and deal with what's inside?
Mr Pretty opted to take his medicine now. First, he injected a bigger dose of reality into the company's balance sheet. That meant looking at GFH's investments - which include stakes in financial companies and major property projects in Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan and India - and forming an up to date assessment of their worth. That exercise was responsible for most of the US$607 million (Dh2.22 billion) in losses GFH announced for the final three months of last year.
Mr Pretty did not stop there. He has renegotiated loans with banks and started to pay them down. He has announced plans to slash costs at the company by 40 per cent to 45 per cent and raise as much as $420m from asset sales in order to pay debts. The workforce has been reduced by almost 100. Bankers at GFH did not receive bonuses last year. It has been painful in the short term. Investors are surely hoping it turns out to be the correct strategy for the long haul.