Is It Time For Jefferies CEO Dick Handler To Put His Money Where His Mouth Is And Buy Jefferies Stock?
Last night Jefferies went on a full out media PR blitz in which the firm's CEO Richard Handler told Bloomberg that he "sees the turmoil easing soon" - he will most certainly be right, one way or another. Handler defended his firm's status after Zero Hedge pointed out that its bonds had tumbled to record lows: "It is not surprising that our bonds are under pressure after the assault on our company over the past two weeks,” Handler said yesterday in an e-mail. “Some bond investors sell first and ask questions later. We expect the market to return to normal pricing once we move beyond the ripple effect of the inaccuracies others have recently disseminated and once investors digest all the information” that Jefferies disclosed. Shares of the New York-based firm fell yesterday to close at their lowest since March 2009 and its bonds traded with junk- like yields that were double the level of mid-August. Jefferies came under pressure from short sellers after MF Global’s $6.3 billion bet on European debt led to an Oct. 31 bankruptcy and spurred scrutiny of similar stakes at financial firms. Handler countered by detailing his firm’s European holdings and later cutting the positions by half. Still, the yield on some Jefferies debt hovers near 10 percent and analysts questioned whether the firm needs a more stable funding model. “We have no need to access the debt markets at this time,” Handler, 50, said in a Nov. 15 interview at Jefferies’s headquarters in Manhattan. “By the time we might consider it again, we think yields will be back in a reasonable range.” Maybe, maybe not. Unfortunately, today it is equity investors who are selling first and asking questions later, and at last check have sent the firm's stock to the lowest price since March 2009, last trading at $9.60, down over 7% for the day. Which is why ask: after back on September 22 Dick Handler sold 2 million shares of his stock to Leucadia at a gross proceeds of about $25 million, it is perhaps time he actually put his money where his mouth is and instead of selling, buy some JEF for a change?