Carvana Stock Plunges Amid Bankruptcy Chatter

CVNA stock – a pandemic darling – has lost 98% of its value in 2022 as the used-car dealer navigates a serious cash crunch.

carvana building with cars in window like a vending machine
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Carvana (CVNA) stock tumbled by as much as 46% at one point early Wednesday amid rising worries that the online used-car retailer could be headed for bankruptcy protection.

A related analyst downgrade of Carvana stock to the equivalent of Sell also weighed on shares.

The bigger blow to Carvana stock, however, was a media report late Tuesday that the used-car dealer's largest creditors signed a cooperation agreement to present a united front in restructuring negotiations. 

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A group of approximately 10 funds, including Apollo Global Management and Pacific Investment Management, pledged to work together in negotiations with Carvana, Bloomberg reported. The funds hold roughly $4 billion of Carvana’s unsecured debt, or around 70% of the total outstanding. 

The move, which is intended to avoid the sort of infighting among lenders that has hampered other recent debt restructurings, raises suspicions that the company and its creditors could be working out a prepackaged bankruptcy plan.

At the very least, it underscores Carvana's extremely serious cash crunch.

In another, and related, knock to Carvana stock, Wedbush analyst Seth Basham downgraded CVNA to Underperform (the equivalent of Sell) from Neutral (Hold). 

"We note that CVNA's director of investor relations, Mike Levin, recently left the company," Basham writes. "Combined with the fact that many CVNA bonds have been trading at about 50 cents on the dollar, indicating investors see a high probability of default, we view this news negatively for the CVNA shares."

The analyst adds that the latest developments point to a "higher likelihood of debt restructuring that could leave the equity worthless in a bankruptcy scenario (pre-packaged or otherwise), or highly diluted in a best case."

JPMorgan analyst Rajat Gupta said in a client note Wednesday that although Carvana "may have initiated debt restructuring negotiations with bond holders," the "possibility of imminent Chapter 11 filing seems low."

Last month Carvana announced a second round of layoffs, sacking 1,500 employees, or about 8% of its workforce. The company has laid off almost one-in-five of its workers this year in a bid to conserve cash.

Carvana was a darling of the pandemic-era stock market – shares appreciated 160% in 2020, alone – but it has since collapsed. CVNA stock is off 98% for the year-to-date, trading at less than $5 a share.

Carvana stock hit an all-time closing high of $370.10 on Aug. 10, 2021.

Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer,

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.

A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.

Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate, cost of living indexes and more.

Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.

Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.