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TheStreet Open House

5 Heavily Shorted Stocks That Hedge Funds Love


One heavily-shorted stock that Icahn is loading up on here is Herbalife ( HLF), which is a global nutrition company that sells weight management, healthy meals and snacks, sports and fitness, energy and targeted nutritional products as well as personal care products. This stock has been crushing the shorts all year, with shares up 95% so far in 2013.

Herbalife has a market cap of $6.6 billion and an enterprise value of $6.8 billion. This stock trades at a cheap valuation, with a trailing price-to-earnings of 14.24 and a forward price-to-earnings of 11.44. Its estimated growth rate for this year 22%, and for next year it's pegged at 14%. The current short interest as a percentage of the float for Herbalife is extremely high at 30.6%.

Carl Icahn added 611,354 shares in the second quarter to a total of 17 million shares of HLF. That stake is now valued somewhere around $766 million. Another hedge fund legend that's loading up on Herbalife per 13F filings is George Soros. Soros is said to have a 4.9% stake in Herbalife, valued around $227 million. This stake was Soros' third-largest holding through the second quarter.

>>4 Stocks Triggering Breakout Trades

Everyone knows the bear thesis on Herbalife by now since one of the bears on the other side of the trade is activist investor and hedge fund manager Bill Ackman. Ackman currently holds a $1 billion short bet against the company. Ackman's short position in HLF has not been kind to him, since he bet against the shares last year before the huge run up. Ackman thinks Herbalife is an illegal pyramid scheme and he's hoping that regulators are going to come in and shut it down. The key word in that last sentence is "hope!"

What's troubling to me about Ackman's short position in HLF is that he's digging in his heels on a trade that has gone horribly against. This is normally a poor risk management strategy when trading in any stock. What's worse is that in his most recent letter to Pershing Square Capital investors, Ackman said that the suicide of a top Herbalife salesman is one sign that the business is falling apart. That seems like one heck of a desperate claim by Ackman, since there has been no evidence to suggest that salesman took his life over anything surrounding Herbalife.

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