Luxury automaker Porsche, which in October briefly became the world's largest hedge fund after it disclosed stock and derivative holdings in fellow car maker Volkswagen (OTCPK:VLKAY), prompting a massive short squeeze, and propelling Volkswagen to the status of largest company in the world by market capitalization, may be in some deep trouble after brand new disclosures by Porsche CFO Holger Härter.
For those uninitiated in the hate fest that transpired on October 28, Financial Ninja has done a good analysis of the events on that day:
This morning Volkswagen (DAX: VOW) was worth more than Exxon Mobile (NYSE:XOM) as common shares rocketed up as much as 93% on a short squeeze.
Porsche, in an attempt to take over the car maker has engineered a shortage of common shares by gobbling up as much as 75% of the company via options. The counter parties to these options went long the actual stock to hedge their exposure, leaving the shorts scrambling for shares to buy back.
Volkswagen Overtakes Exxon as Most Valuable Company (Update1): “Volkswagen AG became the world's biggest company by market value after Porsche SE announced plans to raise its stake in the German carmaker to 75 percent, triggering demand from short-sellers.
Volkswagen rose as much as 485.01 euros, or 93 percent, to 1,005.01 euros and was up 55 percent as of 11:10 a.m. in Frankfurt trading. Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen has risen more than fivefold this year and at its intraday peak was valued at 296 billion euros ($370 billion), more than Exxon Mobil Corp.'s $343 billion market value at yesterday's closing price in New York, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Porsche, the maker of the 911 sports car, has accumulated Volkswagen shares since 2005 in an effort to protect ties to its largest supplier. Porsche said Oct. 26 that it aims to increase its holding from 42.6 percent. That prompted some short-sellers to buy from a shrinking pool of stock to end their bets. BaFin, Germany's financial-market regulator, said today that it's monitoring trading in Volkswagen shares following the gains.
“One of the biggest risks with the herd mentality approach to shorting is that a lot of money can be made on the outset,” said Ed Oliver, a senior business consultant at Spitalfields Advisors, a London-based firm specializing in securities lending. “But you can end up losing the whole of it when you try to close the position. There's no limit.”
Stock On Loan
Volkswagen's surge came as 23 of the 29 other stocks in the country's benchmark DAX Index fell on investor concern that a slowdown in the global economy is accelerating. About 12.9 percent of Volkswagen's common stock was on loan as of Oct. 23, mostly for short sales, the highest proportion of any company on the DAX, according to London-based Data Explorers.
Stuttgart, Germany-based Porsche added to an earlier 35 percent stake and said two days ago that it holds options for another 31.5 percent.
“Porsche heads for a domination agreement and triggers a short-squeeze,” Horst Schneider, an HSBC Holdings Plc analyst in Dusseldorf, Germany, wrote in a report yesterday, in which he upgraded Volkswagen's common shares to “neutral” from
“underweight.” The stock “will be more driven by covering of short positions rather than by fundamental valuations.”
Until Oct. 26, Porsche had said it was aiming only for a stake exceeding 50 percent, and Chief Executive Officer Wendelin Wiedeking said at the Paris Motor Show early this month that a stake of as much as 75 percent would be “not realistic” because of market turmoil.
Short sales have largely been undertaken by investors betting on a decline in Volkswagen's common stock, which hold voting rights, or its underperformance relative to the preferred shares, which carry no votes, according to analysts.
The common shares, which outnumber the preferred equity almost three to one, are the only gainers this year on either the DAX or the nine-member Bloomberg Europe Autos Index. In contrast, Volkswagen's preferred stock has dropped 62 percent, including a 14 percent decline yesterday, to 37.89 euros.
“Volkswagen has been one of the greatest shorts of hedge funds, and it's been an absolute, absolute disaster,” Emmanuel Roman, co-chief executive officer of GLG Partners Inc., said at a conference in London on Oct. 23. “It's been very painful.” GLG didn't participate in short-selling trading of the carmaker's common shares, he said.”