Hedge funds pocket $1.7 billion as Wirecard goes bust

LONDON (Reuters) – Coatue Management and nine other hedge funds likely earned more than 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) this week on bets against Wirecard after the German payments firm collapsed on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Executives of Wirecard AG, a payments company, cast shadows at the company’s annual news conference in Aschheim near Munich, Germany April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Michael Dalder/File Photo

Wirecard shares crashed to 2.5 euros on Thursday from 104.5 euros a week ago, before the company revealed a $2.1 billion hole in its accounts.

That has landed Coatue Management, the hedge fund with the largest short position, a 271 million euro profit on paper, according to Reuters calculations.

Shorting a stock involves borrowing it from an institutional investor, such as a pension fund, selling it, and then buying it back to return to the investor when the shares have fallen, pocketing the profit.

Together, the 10 hedge funds have made hundreds of millions between the company announcing its mammoth accounting hole on June 18 and Thursday, when it applied for insolvency. The shares have crashed 97% in the last week.

London-based TCI has made a profit of 173.6 million euros, while Marshall Wace and Greenvale have made 146.5 million and 110.1 million, respectively, according to Reuters calculations.

Coatue did not immediately respond to requests for comment, while Greenvale declined to comment.

The ten hedge funds each had a short positions greater than 0.5% of shares in issue, triggering public disclosure requirements, but far more short sellers are likely to have bets against Wirecard.

Over 82% of company shares available to loan were being shorted on Thursday, showed data compiled by FIS’ Astec Analytics.

Data firm Ortex found that only 12.5% of short positions had been closed in the past week, leaving 16.8 million – or 15% of all shares – shorted.

“In a week when the share price dropped by over 90% and the CEO was arrested, it would have been easy for hedge funds to take a profit and run,” Peter Hillerberg, co-founder of Ortex, said in a release.

“It looks like their patience will pay off.”

Reporting by Maiya Keidan; Editing by Mark Potter

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