A week ago, on December 26, when Whitney Tilson announced he was piggybacking on the Einhorn-Ackman Herbalife trade, we asked if a short squeeze was imminent "as Tilson jumps on the Herbalife bandwagon." The stock was trading in the mid-$20s. This morning it will open just shy of $35, a 30% gain in one week, which more or less answers our rhetorical question. As a reminder, the Herbalife as a "ponzi scheme" thesis has been around since 2009 (check valueinvestorclub.com, not to be confused with the aforementioned Tilson's VIC) and anyone who assumes this is a valuation catalyst is very much wrong. Which is why the recent surge in the stock may just be the beginning: as was reported late last week, Short Interest in the stock has soared ever since HLF came to the forefront of newsflow to a whopping 26.22 million shares, an increase of 5 million shares short in the past week alone, and amounting to 24% short interest of the total % of shares outstanding.
Just hours after Ackman announced his joining Einhorn's alleged Herbalife short, we jokingly tweeted our expectation of bandwagon-following 'value' investors imminent herding...
Ackman joins Einhorn in the HLF short. Next up: Titney Wilson
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) December 19, 2012
And sure enough, with the holidays providing just enough time to read the 300 pages and to form his own "blindingly obvious" conclusion, Whitney Tilson has jumped in short HLF. We can only imagine the cost of borrow and wonder on the post-OPEX timing of a short squeeze given the huge short interest and the fact that HLF has recently hired Boies, Schiller, and Flexner to defend its business model. HLF is trading up 2% in pre-market.
Back in May, Herbalife stock got monkeyhammered when one of the best performing hedge fund managers of the past few years, David Einhorn expressed a bearish thesis in the company. Today, the stock just got the double tap following no new information, but merely the second part of the Einhorn-Ackman-Loeb activist triangle (who most of the time operate as an informal cartel), as it plunged by over 10% when William Ackman, smarting from the hundreds of millions lost in JCPenney just piggybacked on Einhorn's thesis, as reported by CNBC, said he is short Herbalife, calling it a pyramid scheme, and saying he has done fundamental research for a year (it takes a year to read Einhorn's presentation?). Essentially, nothing new here. All we await now is that 13F chaser Whitney Tilson to finally jump on board what is becoming the world's biggest hedge fund short, and get a catalyst, any catalyst that scrambles the shorts into covering, and sends the stock in the triple digit range.
Just when we thought blowing up one fund in one year is enough for Whitney Tilson (recall from July: It's Official: T1 Is Not T2; Tilson Liquidates To Buy More Of The Same), we got a glimpse of his just released 13F and are rather confident the man, the myth, the stuff of Anti-Tilson ETFs will shock and awe us all one more time. The reason? As of September 30, Tilson's inaccurately named T2 Partners - it should be T1 now that Glenn Tongue is long gone - had a total of $175 million in AUM. That's not the punchline: as part of this $175 million, Tilson had $63 million in put/call stock equivalents. In other words the much vaunted "asset manager" who for some absolutely inexplicable reason continues to get CNBC airtime, managed a grand total of $110 million in real (mostly family and friends) money. That's not the punchline either. The punchline is that Tilson's top 3 positions were AIG and AAPL, with AIG in both stock and Call format. In fact, more than 10% of the firm's virtual AUM, or $18.6 million was in stock equivalent calls for AIG and AAPL, stocks which since September 30 have gone in a literally, not virtually, straight line lower, and have as a result likely wiped out the entire intrinsic call value. The only silver lining: Tilson owned $5.5 mm in NFLX calls and a grand total of $3.6 million in NFLX stock. We hope it carries him far, because once the Icahn grand jig is up, in which the raider is exposed as having absolutely no intentions of buying the company, or even putting it in play, but merely squeezing the shorts courtesy of a costless collar and a sternly worded 13D, that will be the final straw for Tilson's second coming, and most likely, his career.
Several months ago, an ad hoc consortium of self-proclaimed millionaires, sent a letter to Obama, Reid and Boehner, demanding that "For the fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens, we ask that you increase taxes on incomes over $1,000,000." This grass roots initiative sprung up into existence in the aftermath of Warren Buffett's, since defunct, proposal to impose a "millionaire tax" rule. Luckily, as all these very much informed millionaires know quite well, the US Treasury has a dedicated section, named simply pay.gov, which allows anyone: billionaires (here's looking at you Mr. Buffett), millionaire, or even thousandaire, to make a donation which is used directly to pay down the US debt. Because in the absence of the government mandating rich people pay their "fair share" (as determined by a subcommittee of course) for now at least, there is always that other alternative: voluntary action, as per the auspices of something called free will.And not only that, but the US Treasury also provides the general public with a running tally of just how much "Patriotic Millionaire" initiatives have given so far to paying down said debt. As in talk is cheap, signing petitions even cheaper, but putting money where your mouth is actually does go to the bottom line. The bottom line so far in 2012? $7.7 Million - this is how much has been volunteered in total gifts to pay down the US debt. The $16.3 trillion in US debt.
Whitney Tilson, who needs no introduction given his omnipresence on the business media and anti-omniscience (e.g. the Anti-Tilson ETF here) when it comes to stock-picking, may just have put the final nail in the coffin of Obama's chances of winning the election. Via the quill of the man that top-ticked NFLX, "Why I'm Voting for Obama Again":
In virtually every area – the economy, jobs, social issues, foreign affairs, etc. – I think Obama has done well in his first term (and am optimistic that he’ll be even better in his second term), and going forward I believe Obama and the Democrats have a more clearly defined, realistic, better plan for our country than Romney and the Republicans.
Everyone's favorite Whitney Tilson repeat-endorsed, slow motion trainwreck, NetFlix, has reported results after hours. They are, as expected, terrible with lots of cash burn, declining margins and excuses, and as a result the short squeeze is over and the stock is imploding after hours. Among the details:
- Q3 Gross profit declined to 26.8% from 27.6% in Q2 and 34.7% in Q3 2011.
- Total cash declined by $32 million
- Free cash flow was -$20 million, despite positive "net income"
- Q3 Streaming content obligations were flat at a whopping $5 billion. $2.1 billion is due in the next year. The brilliance strikes here first. These obligations "not include obligations that we cannot quantify but could be significant." Uh... What?
And while the firm forecasts a net income loss in Q4 of ($13)MM to $2MM as seen in the table below, which means a far worse free cash flow loss in Q4, the absolute pearl was the following:
"The biggest issue holding back much stronger growth is payments."
A few months ago when the new French socialist president gave details of his particular version of the "fairness doctrine" and said he would tax millionaires at 75%, we said that "we are rotating our secular long thesis away from Belgian caterers and into tax offshoring advisors, now that nobody in the 1% will pay any taxes ever again." While there was an element of hyperbole in the above statement, the implication was clear: France's richest will actively seek tax havens which don't seek to extract three quarters of their earnings, in the process depriving France (and other countries who adopt comparable surtaxes on the rich) of critical tax revenues. It took three months for this to be confirmed, and with a bang at that. The WSJ reports that Bernard Arnault, the CEO of LVMH, and the richest man in France, has decided to forego hollow Buffetian rhetoric that paying extra tax is one's sworn duty, and has sought Belgian citizenship.
NFLX price then: $178.05... NFLX price now: $55.40; Return: -71.20%. And they say CEOs know their companies best...
Thanks for the advice Reed. But we'll stick with our short. But hey, when the whole CEOing thing doesnt work for you, the ECB will surely hire you as it is in dire need of people who sound sophisticated, pretend they know what they are talking about just because they speak loud and with confidence, and write long-winded essays of windbaggery, that say nothing, and end up 100% wrong.
NFLX is down over10%, back to two-year lows, as not even Whitney Tilson can save the 'game-changer' from the reality of surprisingly low barriers to entry. Sure, it will be spun; sure, analysts will maintain 'value' buys (7 buys and 20 holds); but Amazon's deal with Epix this morning adds a greater-than-800lb gorilla to the room in which Netflix plays...
The endless saga of the rental and streaming company, that once had a vendetta with Whitney Tilson until the latter finally threw in the towel after he first shorted then went long Netflix only to blow up on both occasions, continues, this time by plunging 15% after hours following a cut in guidance for Q3 and announcing it will likely once again have a loss in Q4.
As we warned yesterday, the curse of the inverse correlation between CNBC appearances and investment performance has struck once again. The rumor is true as everyone's favorite knife-catching, Buffett-following, leveraged beta fund manager Whitney Tilson has split from his 'colleague' Glenn Tongue who has gone off to run his own 'unencumbered' fund. As the full letter below (h/t DealBreaker) explains, he couldn't be more optimistic about T2's future (so this is a good thing then?) and have no fear since he sees 'a target rich environment' as he has already picked up some 'low hanging fruit'. We wait with bated breath for the next letter...
From the inbox: "Tilson splitting from Tongue, unwinding T2 Partners, new fund at KASE Capital" We very much hope our tipster is wrong: after all how will CNBC Fast Money viewers know to buy JCP at $27, and $26, and $25, and $24, and all the way down to $19 where it is today. Also who could have possibly foreseen the end of a mega long-biased end of a $345 Million fund which had over $125 million in long derivative equivalents? Oh wait...
Whitney Tilson may have met his match. Canadian commodities hedge fund Salida Capital is no stranger to media notoriety: last October none other than Zero Hedge wrote that "Fund Blamed For Gold Sell Off, Salida Capital, Tumbles 37% In September, 49% YTD" after the fund's infamously timed bet on more easing by the Fed backfired and resulted in losses so severe it was enough to warrant liquidation rumors across all commodity classes, which in turn set off follow on liquidations worries in a self reinforcing feedback loop. In retrospect, anyone who read the caveats about the Toronto-based asset manager would have been wise to get the hell out of dodge, because the firm that simply had used massive amount of leverage to generate ridiculous returns such as +35.84%, -66.50%, +188.55%, 44.88%, and -53.39%, is now down 75% in the last 12 months, meaning anyone who invested $100 with the fund, is down to just $25 (and realistically less when management fees are accounted for). It also means that the fund's Sharpe ratio is borderline negative. Finally, it is precisely such fantastically leveraged contraptions on coin toss-based outcomes that even further undermine what little credibility and standing the last vestiges of real, alpha not beta-focused, asset managers remain in this New Normal of ubiquitous central planning.