The dynamic that has seemingly contributed to a short squeeze in the stock of videogame retailer GameStop Corp. also appears to be affecting shares in a host of other heavily shorted companies.
AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. AMC, +12.22%, BlackBerry Ltd. BB, +4.94% and retailer Express Inc. EXPR, -26.75%, have all experienced sharp moves without any apparent news to act as a driver while facing a large amount of bets against them. The same dynamic exists for GameStop GME, +92.71% stock, which has gained more than 300% in the past two-plus weeks amid support from investors on Reddit’s WallStreetBets message board.
In the case of AMC, the world’s biggest cinema operator, that has meant gains of more than 120% in the year to date, even as the company has conducted dilutive capital raisings and its core business remains greatly imperiled by the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis left most of AMC’s theaters in lockdown for months in 2020, deterred major studios from releasing new blockbusters and forced those theaters that were open to operate at limited capacity.
On Monday, AMC announced it had raised $917 million in equity and debt to help it get through a coronavirus-impacted winter; shares jumped 25.9% Monday.
“Today, the sun is shining on AMC,” Chief Executive Adam Aron said in a statement. “After securing more than $1 billion of cash between April and November of 2020, through equity and debt raises along with a modest amount of asset sales, we are proud to announce today that over the past six weeks AMC has raised an additional $917 million capital infusion to bolster and solidify our liquidity and financial position. This means that any talk of an imminent bankruptcy for AMC is completely off the table.”
Mike O’Rourke, chief market strategist at Jones Trading, said one could argue that the Reddit’s WallStreetBets community has saved AMC from a pandemic-driven bankruptcy. The company conducted another at-the-market offering of 50 million shares Monday, he said.
“The company’s share count will be 337 million when that sale is completed, which is up from 58 million in October,” O’Rourke wrote in commentary. “The company’s market capitalization is nearly double what it was prior to the coronavirus.”
Like the other names caught up in this speculative frenzy, AMC has had a high level of short interest as a percentage of the float, which stood at 23% on Friday. Monday’s share sales brings the short interest down to 11.5% of float, O’Rourke said.
“Management deserves credit for opportunistically taking advantage of the environment to gather the resources to stave off bankruptcy,” he wrote.
AMC did not respond to email and phone requests for comment. The Securities and Exchange Commission declined comment. Gamestop has not responded to a request for comment.
‘Investor stampede’ squeezes out bears
Shares of struggling retailer Express were among those caught up in the apparent short squeeze, according to Wedbush analyst Jen Redding, as the stock more than tripled (up 255%) in two days on record volume despite no news released by the company.
The stock skyrocketed 132% on Monday on volume of 358.6 million shares on Monday, both one-day records, breaking the previous records set on Friday with a 53% gain on volume of 77.3 million shares. In comparison, the full-day average volume over the past 30 days has been 18.9 million shares.
The company confirmed to MarketWatch that it’s last public announcement was made on Jan. 14, when the stock shot up 24% on volume of about 51 million shares after Express revealed an agreement on $140 million in additional financing with Sycamore Partners, as well as Wells Fargo and Bank of America. This financing was definitely good news for a retailer that has been fighting to stay solvent. But the stock fell 9.4% over the next three days, so it’s unlikely the Friday-Monday rally was a result of that news.
“We’re focused on our EXPRESSway Forward transformation strategy and things that are in our control,” said Dan Aldridge III, vice president of investor relations, in an emailed statement.
In addition to the “wider squeeze play” of the more shorted stocks, Wedbush’s Redding said the stock benefited from an “investor stampede” following bullish comments from a Twitter “personality” Will Meade.
Meade’s Twitter profile says he’s a former portfolio manager at a Goldman Sachs founded $1 billion hedge fund, with over 127,000 followers (he’s not verified).
On Jan. 22, just before Express’s two-day rocket ride, Meade tweeted that Express’s stock fit the criteria of being the next GameStop, as it had a low stock price, had a retail brand name that could turn around and had high short interest levels, at about 13% of the public float.
Redding reiterated her neutral rating on Express, and her $1.50 stock price target.
“We are more cautious on share price and valuation now as the stampede on Express shares seems to discount the company hemorrhaging cash,” Redding wrote in a note to clients.
The stock tumbled 28% in afternoon trading on Tuesday, enough to make it the biggest decliner listed on the NYSE. Volume topped 44.2 million shares, putting it on pace to pace Friday’s total.
BlackBerry stock surge prompts RBC analyst to dub it a sell
BlackBerry was another stock caught up in the recent squeeze play. With the stock up 0.6% in afternoon trading Tuesday, the Canada-based cybersecurity software company’s stock has now blasted 144% amid an eight-day win streak.
On Monday, BlackBerry commented on the recent trading in its stock, at the request of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC): “The company is not aware of any material, undisclosed corporate developments and has not material change in its business or affairs that has not been publicly disclosed that would account for the recent increase in the market price or trading volume of its common shares.”
The stock’s rocket ride was fueled by reports in The Globe and Mail that it had sold 90 patents to China-based technology giant Huawei, and after the company reportedly settled a patent infringement lawsuit against Facebook Inc. FB, +1.45%
RBC Capital Markets analyst Paul Treiber wasn’t buying it, saying while the Huawei and Facebook news were positive, they magnitude of the potential gains was likely much smaller than what the stock rally added to BlackBerry’s market capitalization.
Treiber cut his rating to underperform from sector perform.
Other stocks seemingly swept up in the craze:
• Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. BBBY, +20.18% saw its stock climb as much as 50% on Monday, bumping its year-to-date gains to 96%. The gains came even after the retailer’s third-quarter earnings released earlier this month fell far short of expectations.