If anyone is wondering why the darling stock of Bill Ackman and Whitney Tilson, for whom every collapse of JCP is a buying gift from god, namely JCPenney, is plunging after hours, it is because the company's president, Michael Francis, hired October 4, 2011, has just quit. To wit: "J. C. Penney Company, Inc. ("jcpenney") (JCP) today announced that Michael Francis will be leaving the Company, effective today. Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson will assume direct responsibility and oversight of the company's marketing and merchandising functions." And to think that just 9 months ago the company CEO Ron Johnson announced, that "I am thrilled to welcome Michael to our team... He is an extremely talented executive with the vision and courage to re-imagine the department store experience. His ability to innovate and deep understanding of the industry will be invaluable as we set out to transform J.C. Penney into America's favorite store." And while his ability to do anything else appears to have been a dud, his ability to read the fine print in his contract, especially where it talks about his perks, was second to none. Because despite leaving just 9 months after his hiring, Francis is entitled to collect a whopping $9 million in pro-rated signing bonus (alongside $100,000/month in salary): all in all - a tidy package of $10 million for shooting the breeze while observing a sinking retail ship. Not bad for a company whose stock has just plunged to September 2010 levels.
News & headlines from the day
From Whitney Tilson's just released letter: "It was an ugly month – our second-worst ever – but for perspective, our fund gave back slightly more than the 12.3% gain of the previous two months. We’re still having a decent year, with a healthy, market-beating gain. In fact, this is the fourth-best start to a year in our fund’s 14-year history." Is that so? May one inquire, in the aftermath of the JPM CIO scandal, does T2 mark the bulk of their positions, which as Zero Hedge disclosed recently are call options, based on market, or based on magical bid/asks, to be made up on the go (as in JPM'scase)? That's right - a hedge fund which "invests" in theta. Is there any wonder why the "hedge fund" with about $200 million in actual stock-based AUM (the balance being calls and warrants), may be the first one with a negative Sharpe ratio? For a visual summary of why LPs (aside from friends and family of course) in T2 are singlehandedly propping up the bottom line of Dramamine, see the chart below.
While we were told during the PSI process that all was fixed and that Greece now had breathing room to cut spending and meet its TROIKA-mandated targets on the road to glory, it appears - just as we said it would - that things have got worse (much worse). In the 44 trading days since the PSI deal was struck, Greek government bonds are down over 44% in price - trading below 12% of par today for the first time ever. So much for Greylock's "no-brainer", "trade of the year" eh? Did equity markets signal an expectation of hope and change even as the government's largesse was priced into its debt? Not so much - the Athens Stock Exchange index is down an incredible 35% since 3/22 - back at 22 year lows! Where is the Greek Whitney Tilson when we need him most?
In the aftermath of last night's Dell cataclysm, we would like to cheer up any remaining bulls - below we present at least one bullish perspective from the inimitable Whitney Tilson who has a $21-$29 price target (and owned 768K shares of stock). Ignore that the stock is down 20% since the reco, and 33% from recent highs: it takes special skill to discover "pent up value."
For all the totally inexplicable facetime T2's Whitney Tilson gets on prime time financial comedy air, one would imagine that the man runs billions and billions. Instead, as per the just released 13F, Tilson's fund has a grand total of $345MM in long AUM as of March 31. So far so good, however that does not explain why the manager has a Sharpe ratio of roughly 0.00 in the past 3 years. Well, now we know: of the $345 MM total, a ridiculous $104 Million is in call options! In other words, not only is Tilson nothing but a bullish bet that copycats various other select hedge fund portfolios, it is a mega-levered one at that, with what appears ridiculously high theta! It get's worse: as it turns out, another $24MM or so is... in Warrants. Yup: all levered products without actually owning the underlying, leading to massive monthly swings in actual P&L. In other words, real assets held by Tilson amount to $217 Million. And one wonders why the fund can be up 20% one month and down 30% the next... or how Tilson can spend hours a day on TV.
The Athens Stock Exchange broad index of Greek stocks just dropped to its lowest level since 1992. It is now around 90% lower than its 1999 and 2007 peak levels. The index of Greek banking stocks is rumbling along the lowest levels on record down over 97% from its 2007 highs. Where is the Greek Whitney Tilson (or Dick Bove) when they need him?
Fidelity is happy to announce it has an opening for a new consumer discretionary analyst, because the current one, the one who recommended the firm's investment in Green Mountain, is now looking for a job. Fidelity's GMCR position , which as of 3:59 pm amounted to $1.13 billion, was minutes later trimmed by $445 million, after the company finally posted earnings (and we use the term loosely) which may have finally validated the David Einhorn (and every single skeptic's before) thesis on the name. Because while the earnings themselves came in line, it was the forecast that buried the company: specifically, its forecast of $885 million in Q2 revenue on expectations of $971.7 million, $3.92 -$4.05 billion in full year revenue on estimates of $4.32-$4.46 billion, as well as its 2012 EPS which were forecast to come at $2.40-$2.50 while the street was looking for 2.631 EPS. The result: the growth thesis is now over, and the growth premium has collapsed, with the stock plunging by 40% after hours.
I have to confess, I am tired of writing "structured" articles, the ones where I have to limit my thoughts to 800 words. So with this one I am taking a break. This is an unstructured stream of thought, in no particular sequence.
The most popular talking-head on financial TV (after Bill Miller and Byron Wien), Whitney Tilson, has not had a #winning year so far. In fact the simple pair trade Anti-Tilson (Long GMCR-Short Netflix which we closed when it returned 50% in just over a month), that was so popular last year, has been expanded to include his biggest shorts (as we promised yesterday). While we do not know weightings (obviously), on an equal-weighted basis from today's price, Tilson's 10 largest shorts have managed an impressive 7.37% gain on the year, handily outperforming his 15 largest longs which have managed a sub-market performance gain year-to-date of 1.45%. So being long Whitney's shorts and short the-ever-smiling manager's longs (on an equal weighted basis) would have made you around 6% year-to-date - considerably better than the +2.5% move in the S&P itself.
Whitney Tilson Calms Investors Following Abysmal Year By Telling Them He Has Lost Money Faster In The PastSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/10/2012 10:13 -0400
Grab a cup of coffee, find a comfortable chair, lean back, and prepare to be entertained: here is Whitney Tilson's Mea Culpa for "returning" -24.9% in 2011.
When at first you cover a soaring knife near its all time high, try, try again to catch it on the way down. And if you are Whitney Tilson, this is precisely what you do. The fund which is now down 25% YTD has lost 21.4% on its second round Netflix investment, something which Zero Hedge readers were on the other side of for the entire 50% pick in one month. But heaven forbid you learn a lesson: "A couple of weeks ago we sent you an article we published entitled “Why We’re Long Netflix and Short Green Mountain Coffee Roasters,” which is attached in Appendix B. Since then, both stocks have moved against us, making them even more attractive in our opinion." Lordy...
While pervasive asset liquidations are dragging everything lower, stocks and gold included, one thing is doing amazingly well and is up over 7% intraday and nearly 36% in the past 5 days. The "thing" is, naturally, the Anti-Tilson ETF: the pair trade of being long GMCR (Tilson's vocal short) and short NFLX (Tilson's legendary flip flop). Just like theStreet did an amazing job of being the contrarian indicator du jour, so Tilson continues to be the market's most valuable (counter) indicator.
The last time Whitney Tilson decided to go public (on a completely unsolicited basis) with his investment thesis of short Netflix, the market took him to the toolshed leading to Tilson (as usual) underperforming the S&P by a ridiculous amount. This time around, with his very public announcement that he is now long NFLX and GMCR... things don't seem to be much different. We have created a CIX screen which is basically an anti-Tilson ETF: long GMCR (on the inevitable squeeze) and short Netflix on the billions in off balance sheet liabilities that somehow were missing from Tilson's thesis, and the result is...
Deja Vu All Over Again: An Unsolicited Whitney Tilson Explains Why He Is Short Green Mountain, Long NetflixSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/13/2011 23:27 -0400
The last time Whitney Tilson presented his "investing thesis" case in public, he got promptly anihilated as was to be expected - there is a reason why real hedge funds keep their positions secret. This time, "it will be different." Incidentally, it is not a hedge fund manager's job, no matter how tiny said hedge fund is, to plea to the broad investing public: it makes one appear like a petulant child. Their job is to outperform the S&P since inception: a task T2 still seems to find daunting...