(Tech stock analyst Jon D. Markman publishes Strategic Advantage, a lively guide to investing in the digital transformation of business and society. Click here for a trial.)
Cathie Wood of Ark Investments might be the most famous asset manager not named Warren yet critics are lining up to bet against her fund. She is likely to get the last laugh.
Wood was making the rounds Thursday on financial news networks. She is getting out in front of reports that the Big Short investor has made a major bet against her flagship fund.
Longer-term investors should accumulate Ark Innovation ETF (ARKK).
Michael Burry gained fame during the 2006-2009 housing bubble by correctly predicting the collapse of subprime mortgages, money lent to higher risk applicants. His research showed that subprime mortgage investments would fizzle when the borrowers were ultimately forced to replace their teaser rate loans with contracts that reflected their creditworthiness. Burry then persuaded Goldman Sachs to sell him credit default swaps to bet against the subprime bonds.
Burry was right. He earned $700 million for the partners in his Scion Capital hedge fund and $100 million personally. Then Hollywood memorialized his exploits in the film The Big Short.
According to a 13F filing at the Securities and Exchange Commission, now Burry is using options to bet against Ark Innovation ETF and Tesla (TSLA), Ark’s largest holding.
Except that Ark and Tesla are not the subprime crisis. The value of their securities has nothing to do with debt financing or default. The process is far more opaque.
Tesla is cashflow positive. Its production for 2021 is sold out. More importantly, the company has shown no trouble raising capital at current share prices and above. Institutional investors have bought into the valuation. If Burry is expecting some sort of bomb to eventually explode and bring clarity he’s likely to be disappointed.
There is also a social investing problem.
Legions of smaller investors have gamified opposition to hedge fund managers like Burry. They look for bearish bets then they collectively run stock prices higher to cause maximum pain. This process can continue for many months, as with the meme stocks Gamestop (GME) and AMC Entertainment (AMC).
Hedge fund managers have lost billions during 2021 betting against meme stocks.
The Ark Innovation fund returned 150% during 2020, although shares are down 8.6% year-to-date. Attracting bearish investors like Burry is not a bad thing. It is likely the fuel needed to get the fund moving higher again.
Longer-term investors should buy shares into the current weakness.
(Footnote: When I was managing editor of MSN Money in the late 1990s, I hired young Mike Burry as a weekly columnist focused on value stocks. He had just graduated from med school at Vanderbilt University and was headed to Stanford for further studies, but stock analysis and investing were his passions. The Big Short is a great film but skips over important and tragic events surrounding Burry’s efforts to short mortgage-backed bonds. Ask me about it next time we meet.)