Analysis: Short sellers wait to bet big against Groupon | Wifi Walker, J B Chaparal Properties

Analysis: Short sellers wait to gamble large opposite Groupon

Mon Nov 14, 2011 11:54pm GMT

(Reuters) – On paper, Groupon Inc appears to be a luscious aim for brief sellers: it loses money, it has altered a accounting twice, and a unproven business indication faces foe from Google and Amazon.

But a shorts might have to wait as betting opposite a daily deals website is usually too costly right now since of a tiny share float.

To make income shorting a $15 billion company, that went open progressing this month, investors would have to see a batch go tighten to 0 for a year-long bet.

“It would be unequivocally beforehand and rarely unsure to cruise shorting Groupon shortly after a IPO,” pronounced Fred Moran, an researcher during Benchmark Co. “It’s unequivocally formidable to steal a batch on a newly released confidence and it has a unequivocally low float.”

Groupon sole a seductiveness of about 6 percent in a initial open offering, one of a smallest in a past decade.

That means there is tiny batch accessible for brief sellers, who have to steal shares before they can sell them. If a batch drops, they can buy it behind during a reduce price, lapse them to a lender and slot a disproportion as profit.

A wanting supply had some brokers charging an annual rate of 90 percent to 100 percent final week to steal Groupon stock, according to dual sidestep account managers, one eccentric merchant and one primary broker. They spoke on condition of anonymity to safety their counterparty relationships.

It is surprising for a batch to cost this most to borrow. Shares of a heavily shorted Eastman Kodak, for example, cost 73 percent to steal on normal over a past 7 days, according to Quadriserv AQS, that runs a bonds lending platform.

A 100 percent rate, or disastrous remission as it is known, means a merchant has to compensate $20 to steal a $20 batch for a year. In this instance, Groupon batch would have to dump to tighten to 0 within a year for a brief seller to mangle even. So traders are usually shorting a shares for unequivocally brief periods, such as a few hours, or avoiding a trade all together.

“I’m not looking during it nonetheless since of a steal and float,” pronounced Jeff Matthews of sidestep account organisation Ram Partners, that takes prolonged and brief positions. “Also, they have some intelligent guys there. It could turn a legit business, nonetheless we doubt it. So watchful and watching.”


Groupon’s tiny boyant increases a possibility of a brief squeeze, that happens when a batch climbs and brief sellers are forced to buy behind shares to extent waste or tighten positions. Such shopping mostly feeds on itself, pulling a cost even aloft and forcing other shorts to buy and cover.

Andrew Left of Citron Research compared a risk of shorting Groupon to betting opposite LinkedIn Corp, a veteran networking website that went open in May, also with a boyant of reduction than 10 percent.

LinkedIn some-more than doubled on a initial day of trade, afterwards gave adult a lot of those gains over a subsequent month, usually to burst about 75 percent by a center of July. Such swings can leave brief sellers nursing complicated losses.

Groupon might be an appealing brief during some point, though “right now it could go aloft too easily,” Left said.

He added, “The batch marketplace is a diversion of supply and demand, not satisfactory when there is no float.”

Citron Research publishes investigate on what it calls frauds and “terminal” business models. Left and others during Citron infrequently reason brief positions in bonds profiled by a firm, and they do not divulge when trades are instituted or closed.

Another approach to gamble opposite a association is to buy put options, that give a hilt a right to sell shares by a given date during a sold price.

The cost of put options on Groupon were high on Monday, a initial day of options trading. Put options that end in Dec and lift a $24 strike cost were labelled during about $3. Factoring in that premium, an financier would be betting on shares to tumble subsequent $21.

Call options — a gamble on a batch arise — traded during a $1.50 premium, suggesting some-more direct for a batch to fall.

“Everyone is awaiting a batch to slip and there is unequivocally a aloft askance to put activity, though we need to unequivocally trust that there will be a extreme pierce on a downside to buy puts during this premium,” pronounced Ryan Detrick, comparison researcher during Schaeffer’s Investment Research.

Groupon shares sealed down 0.74 percent during $24.07 on a Nasdaq on Monday, above their IPO cost of $20 though subsequent a $31.14 high reached on their initial day of trade.


Despite a risks of shorting Groupon, there is direct to do so. Last Thursday, a poignant volume of Groupon batch was lent during a 90 percent disastrous rebate, according to Quadriserv AQS. Its lending use was sealed on Friday and a positions were still open on Monday morning, mouthpiece Mary Haffenberg said.

Short sellers indicate to Groupon’s take rate as a reason to gamble opposite a company, as good as to a stock’s abounding valuation.

The take rate, or elect rate, measures how most income Groupon shares with merchants that take partial in a daily deals. This rate has been descending in new buliding as foe increases and a association branches out into new categories.

Groupon’s take rate for sauna and grill deals is about 45 percent to 50 percent, while Living Social, a tip aspirant corroborated by Amazon, has a take rate of 40 percent to 45 percent and smaller rivals are in a mid-to-high 30 percent range, according to Herman Leung, an researcher during Susquehanna Financial Group.

Leung expects Groupon’s take rate to tumble somewhat over a subsequent dual years, though he warned that if new categories cannibalize sales, or foe army reduce rates, his foresee might infer conservative.

Leung foresee Groupon’s 2013 gain before interest, taxes, debasement and amortization during $899 million. On that basis, Groupon is trade during a mixed of usually over 17 times, that is a lot aloft than Google, eBay, Expedia, OpenTable and, while cheaper than Amazon and LinkedIn.

(Reporting by Alistair Barr in San Francisco and Angela Moon in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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