Pershing Square Tontine Has a Reddit Problem
The fine folks at Reddit already think I’m a useless pile of manure so this take will be injurious to me because it might strike a little too close to home. Nevertheless, I think it’s substantially relevant for Pershing Square Tontine (NYSE:PSTH), the special purpose acquisition company that billionaire activist investor Bill Ackman sponsors. As you know from the GameStop (NYSE:GME) drama, billionaire hedge fund owners aren’t exactly the most popular figures these days, posing an unusual risk for PSTH stock.
However, that hasn’t stopped at least some folks from diving into PSTH simply on the basis of SPAC fever. As we’ve seen from the meteoric surge in other SPACs, just say that four-letter acronym is enough justification to accrue millions, even billions of dollars.
Back in early January, I mentioned that PSTH stock “might be good for a short-term gamble only.” Hardly words of strong conviction, I concede you this point. However, it was accurate. Between the time of publication until the middle of the month, shares jumped more than 10%. That was almost 1% a day, which is about as good of a short-term gamble as any.
Of course, all good things must come to an end. Since its mid-January peak, PSTH stock shed most of its profits. It might pop up again, though you may want to consider selling into strength if it does. As my InvestorPlace colleague Thomas Niel noted, Pershing Square Tontine is not a “regular” SPAC. In this context, regular means exciting businesses, such as electric vehicles or even space travel.
For PSTH stock, the target is what Ackman describes as a “mature unicorn.” Put another way, Pershing Square is going against the grain. Rather than the hype justifying the SPAC, this SPAC attempts to justify its own hype.
Because there is nothing sexy about a mature business like Bloomberg LP, Pershing Square’s heavily rumored reverse-merger target.
Reddit Has Expanded Its Influence
On Reddit, I’m known as an “Equus pit” if you get my drift. Frankly, the label isn’t entirely unfair in that, especially in this country, people want to hear what they want to hear. Also, I have a choice in the matter. If I wanted to avoid overly nasty criticism, I can simply write cookie-cutter articles.
PSTH stock was priced at $26.39 on Jan. 6. It went up to $27.34 the following day. But where’s the compelling content here? You might as well have an algorithm write your articles – and some firms do exactly that.
Rather, I aim to provide meaningful insights, even if they are controversial. And one headwind that has popped up for PSTH stock recently is the GameStop – or is that GameStomp? – phenomenon. In a nutshell, folks on Reddit and other social media platforms have taken aim at short sellers, driving up their targeted shorts in order to force these massive hedge funds to cover their bearish positions, thereby accelerating the price even more.
Well-known short-selling firms like Melvin Capital and Citron Research exited their GME shorts, suffering massive losses as a result.
PSTH Stock Risks a Social Media Blackout
The glee that you’re witnessing across social media is underlined not just by the retail activist bulls’ profits, but also by the pain of the hedge funds themselves. In other words, hedge funds are the real Equus pits. They do nothing of productive value. Instead, they massage already existing capital infrastructures, hyping up or down certain stocks and profiting from their desired trajectories.
So Ackman’s SPAC faces not so much a detrimental short squeeze but rather, no interest at all. Many eyes have been opened to the Wall Street fantasy matrix. The folks that bid up GME are not going to help a billionaire by doing the same for PSTH stock.
That’s one thing. The other is that Bill Ackman hails from a background that is despised by some of Reddit’s most “colorful” supporters. Obviously, I’m not going to get into details, but you’ve got to be living under a rock to not notice Reddit’s extreme elements.
These elements, of course, fueled longstanding conspiracy theories that stigmatized and marginalized certain people groups. Increasingly, the concern is that such theories have materialized into unprecedented action and sometimes violence.
However, with PSTH stock, you can silently express your extremism by simply turning your back. Since perceived leaching billionaires of all stripes are under the public microscope, it won’t take much convincing for people not to get the warm and fuzzies about Pershing Square.
I think we’re about to find out that the broader populist movement that has skyrocketed GME – and took Donald Trump to the White House in 2016 – is a lot stronger than many Americans acknowledge. On the surface, that doesn’t help legacy billionaires who haven’t contributed anything other than massaging pre-existing relationships.
So that’s strike one against PSTH stock.
Strike two is what I just mentioned. Conspiracy theories and extreme views are again more popular than we might think. Previously, you can just ignore such ideas on the margins. Today, it’s reckless to assume these ideas don’t have influence. As Fox News’ Tucker Carlson pointed out, Ackman transacted some questionable deals of his own, thus potentially fueling more conspiracy theories.
Strike three is that the Pershing SPAC just isn’t exciting. And with it being priced as if a deal were imminent, there are many, many boring stocks from which investors can choose. Therefore, do a reverse GameStop and sell the pops.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto held a long position in GME stock.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.