I would be a seller up there if you are still holding from the low $20’s. As a trader, the entry or exit of a big name trader may cause you to move from one side of the pricing game to the other, i.e., shift you from being a buyer to a seller. The extent of the impact on the pricing gap will depend in large part on the history of success that the big name investor brings into the investment, with sustained success in the past going with a larger impact. The first is to generate post-mortems (about past performance) and the other is make forecasts for the future. While prior dividend payouts do not indicate what the future holds, these are reliable indicators for what may be on the horizon. Returning more cash to the boutique holders in special dividends or buybacks can change value either upwards (if the market is discounting the cash on the presumption that the company would waste the cash on bad investments/acquisitions) or downwards (if returning the cash will expose the firm to default risk or substantial financing costs in the future).
A trader with billions under his control investing in a lightly traded and lightly followed stock will have a much bigger pricing effect than in a very liquid, large market capitalization company. Once he identified a stock like that he would wait for it to form what he called a “Darvas box”. While it does look like Icahn’s sale had a negative effect (albeit mild) and Berkshire’s buy had a positive effect (almost as mild), I plan to use the framework of the last section to assess each of these investors and gauge how it should affect my thinking about the stock. To get a measure of the pricing effect of a big name trade, you have to look at both the resources commanded by the trader as well as the liquidity/trading volume in the stock. 1. The first is if the big name investor has private information or is perceived as knowing more about the firm than you do. The bandwagon effect: To the extent that there are some in the market who perceive the big name trader as better at perceiving momentum swings than the rest of us, they will follow the investor in buying or selling the stock.
If you are valuing a company, the entry of a big name activist investor in the ranks with a history of pushing for more debt could lead you to reassess your value estimate as well. Adding debt to your financing mix can add value to a firm (because of the tilt in the tax code towards debt) or destroy value (because it exposes companies to bankruptcy risk). It does color how I viewed Icahn’s investment in Apple in January 2014, his push at Apple for more dividends and more debt during his days as a Apple investor and his decision to sell his holdings on April 2016. I was already an investor in Apple in January 2014, when Icahn bought his shares, and while I did not view his decision to buy the shares as vindication of my valuation, I welcomed him to the shareholder ranks both because Apple was badly in need of a momentum shift and Icahn was playing both an activist and a catalyst role. Of course, members of Congress could still buy and sell broad-based mutual funds.
To the extent that the big name trader’s time horizon may be even shorter, he or she can still make money from the bandwagon effect. That said, there are two ways that the investment action (to buy or sell) of a big name investor can change your assessment of value. In some emerging markets, where possessing proprietary information is neither illegal nor unusual, and the decision by an investor who is perceived as having this information (an insider, manager or family member) to buy (or sell) is an indicator that your value should be increased (decreased). The volume effect: If the big name trader has enough money to back his or her trade, there will be a liquidity effect, where a buy will push the price up higher and a sell will push it lower. 2. The other scenario is where the big name investor is an activist who plans to push for changes in the way the company operates, how it is financed or how much and how it returns cash to investors.