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Hertz shares surge on plan to sell $1 billion in stock that could get wiped out in bankruptcy

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An exterior view of Hertz Car Rental during the coronavirus pandemic on May 23, 2020 in New York City. COVID-19 has spread to most countries around the world, claiming over 343,000 lives with over 5.4 million infections reported.

Cindy Ord | Getty Images

Shares of Hertz surged Friday morning on unusual plans for the bankrupt company to sell up to $1 billion in shares, a last ditch effort for it to raise capital even though the value of the stock could get wiped out.

During premarket trading, shares were up more than 70% to $3.56 before leveling off to open at $3.21 – the latest speculative surge since the company filed for bankruptcy on May 22. Shares were lower but still up about 35% in trading to $2.78.

The car rental firm in a public filing Thursday asked the bankruptcy court to potentially sell 246.8 million unissued shares to Jefferies LLC.

“The recent market prices of and the trading volumes in Hertz’s common stock potentially present a unique opportunity for the debtors to raise capital on terms that are far superior to any debtor-in-possession financing,” the company said in the filing, which the court is yet to make a decision regarding.

Hertz said the net proceeds would be used for general working capital purposes. The filing was on an “emergency basis given the volatile state of trading in Hertz’s stock.”

CNBC’s Jim Cramer questioned the company’s plans Friday morning, relating it to a circus.

“The question is did P.T. Barnum become the CEO?,” Cramer said during CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “No, it’s someone else. How do you like that? Maybe they ought to bring in P.T. Barnum because that’s exactly what it takes to have the guts to be able to do that offering. I mean there’s a possibility that it’s worth nothing.”

The only way it works for common shareholders of Hertz is if there’s somehow a sudden surge of rental and the company undoes the bankruptcy, according to Cramer. The move, he said, is a positive for large bondholders because there’s more money coming in.

Cramer has cautioned investors, particularly new traders, about the risk of buying the stock of companies that filed for bankruptcy such as Hertz.

Cramer said it is “highly unlikely” that Hertz, as a business, goes away in its bankruptcy. But the company’s bondholders will be the first in line to get a piece of the post-bankruptcy Hertz. Owners of the common stock, on the other hand, “are at the bottom of the bankruptcy pecking order,” Cramer said earlier this week.

–CNBC’s Kevin Stankiewicz contributed to this report.

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