Einhorn’s Interesting Longs, and More Fracking

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, October 2, 2012

I’m absolutely sure that you can find plenty of articles about David Einhorn’s presentation today at the Value Investing Congress — unlike the past couple years, he did not tear any companies apart or allege really gross misvaluations or fraud, but did present a couple shorts and a couple longs.

The shorts were a repeat of Green Mountain (GMCR), as expected — just reiterating that even though the stock is far lower now it will go lower still. They have gone from being a monopoly producer that couldn’t generate any free cash flow to being a high cost producer facing major competition, and the risks are still very much on the downside and the financials are still opaque. Hard to argue with that one, though I never tried to short it myself (I think short arguments and short sellers are important, but I don’t do it much).

The “new” short was Chipotle (CMG) — no allegations of wrongdoing or bad accounting, just an argument that they are very overvalued still and they’re not priced as if they will significantly decelerate their earnings growth, as he expects. The major threat he spent time on is Taco Bell, with abundant research that he commissioned (surveys) into the commonality of Taco Bell and CMG customers (despite opinions to the contrary, they share about 70-80% of their customers), and the new product offerings that are letting Taco Bell take customers from Chipotle with competitive products at much lower price points. I haven’t been long Chipotle in a long time so I’ve missed a lot of the run up and don’t have a good handle for how the business is operating these days, but he made some good points.

He also talked up GM and a health insurer as longs — I’ll think more on those in the weeks to come. His arguments shouldn’t decimate any of these stocks, nor are they likely to send the shares of multibillion dollar companies markedly higher in the near term, so we’ve got time to think.

Oh, and he reiterated his assessment of St. Joe (JOE), the timber company turned prospective developer on the Florida panhandle — they’re valued at 2-3X the value of their land, he says, and they are doing nothing, the prospective developments are still empty, the airport and nearby land still moribund, according to him and to Whitney Tilson. They cut costs ...

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