Carl Icahn Has Never Been More Short The Market, Is Pressing For A Crash

Three months ago, when looking at the 10-Q of Carl Icahn's hedge fund vehicle, Icahn Enterprises, L.P. (IEP) we found something striking: Carl Icahn had put his money where his mouth was. Recall that over the past year, Carl Icahn had become one of the most vocal market bears with a series of increasingly escalating forecasts. At first, he was mostly pessimistic about junk bonds, saying last May that "what's even more dangerous than the actual stock market is the high yield market." As the year progressed his pessimism become more acute and in December he said that the "meltdown in high yield is just beginning." It culminated in February when he said on CNBC that a "day of reckoning is coming."

Some skeptics thought that Icahn was simply trying to scare investors into selling so he could load up on risk assets at cheaper prices, however that turned out to be wrong when IEP revealed that as of March 31 it had taken its net short position from a modestly bearish 25% net short to an unprecedented for Icahn 149% short position, a six-fold increase in bearish bets.

However, even as other prominent billionaires piled onto the bearish side, the market soared. And then, after Q1, it soared some more to the point where as of the end of June, following the brief Brexit dump, it was just shy of all time highs (where it is now). So there was renewed speculation if Icahn had given up on his record bearish bet. So when overnight IEP released its latest 10-Q, we were eager to find out if Carl had unwound his record short, or perhaps, added more to it. What we found is that  one quarter after having a net short position of -149%, as of June 30, Icahn's net position was once again -149%, or in other words, he has once again never been shorter the market.

 

This is the result of a relatively flat long gross exposure of 174% (up 10% from the previous quarter) resulting from a 166% equity and 8% credit long, and another surge soaring short book which has  grown even more from -313% as of March 31, 2016 to a gargantuan 323% as of the last quarter, on the back of 301% in gross short equity exposure and 22% short credit.

This is what IEP added as detail:

Of our short exposure of 323%, the fair value of our short positions represented 24% of our short exposure. The notional value of our other short positions, which primarily included short credit default swap contracts and short broad market index swap derivative contracts, represented 299% of our short exposure.

 

With respect to both our long positions that are not notionalized (167% long exposure) and our short positions that are not notionalized (24% short), each 1% change in exposure as a result of purchases or sales (assuming no change in value) would have a 1% impact on our cash and cash equivalents (as a percentage of net asset value). Changes in exposure as a result of purchases and sales as well as adverse changes in market value would also have an effect on funds available to us pursuant to prime brokerage lines of credit.

 

With respect to the notional value of our other short positions (299% short exposure), our liquidity would decrease by the balance sheet unrealized loss if we were to close the positions at quarter end prices. This would be offset by a release of restricted cash balances collateralizing these positions as well as an increase in funds available to us pursuant to certain prime brokerage lines of credit. If we were to increase our short exposure by adding to these short positions, we would be required to provide cash collateral equal to a small percentage of the initial notional value at counterparties that require cash as collateral and then post additional collateral equal to 100% of the mark to market on adverse changes in fair value. For our counterparties who do not require cash collateral, funds available from lines of credit would decrease.

There was little incremental detail. One quarter ago, when asked about this unprecedented bearish position, Icahn Enterprises CEO Cozza said during the earnings call that "Carl has been very vocal in recent weeks in the media about his negative views" adding that "we’re much more concerned about the market going down 20% than we are it going up 20%. And so the significant weighting to the short side reflects that."

Considering that since then the market has soared higher on wave after wave of central bank intervention, which has brought the monthly total amount of global QE to just shy of $200 billion, after the latest QE increase by the BOE...

 

... perhaps Icahn's directional fears were displaced.  On the other hand, since Icahn has shown no interest in unwinding his bearish position, and has kept it identical to a quarter ago, one can conclude that the financier-rapidly-turning-politician, has merely delayed his bet for a day of reckoning for the S&P500.  Perhaps this time he will be right.

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