Expedia Short Interest Climbs Along with Stock
Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE) has been a very interesting stock in 2012. In December 2011, the company successfully completed its spin-off of TripAdvisor (NASDAQ: TRIP). Immediately prior to the spin-off, Expedia effected a one-for-two reverse stock split whereby holders of EXPE became entitled to receive one share of TripAdvisor common stock and one share of Expedia common stock for every two shares of Expedia stock held immediately prior to the spin-off.
Shareholders who have held both stocks through 2012 have done quite well for themselves. Year-to-date, TRIP shares have soared nearly 76% while EXPE is up almost 57% in 2012. At current levels, TRIP has a market cap of $5.94 billion while EXPE's market cap is $5.74. In terms of unlocking value for shareholders, the TRIP spin-off has been a smashing success.
While TripAdvisor is certainly an interesting stock, recent activity in Expedia suggests that there could be more opportunity in it. Specifically, the company released an extremely bullish earnings report on April 27. The following day, EXPE shares traded up as much as 28%, causing a large gap in the chart. During the company's fiscal first-quarter, EXPE reported adjusted EPS of $0.26 versus analysts' consensus of $0.15. Revenues were $816.49 million compared to Street consensus estimates of $790.91 million.
The results obviously took investors by surprise and have catalyzed an ongoing rally in the share price. Over the last month alone, EXPE is up more than 44%. The stock broke out again on Wednesday of this week, rallying more than 6% on heavy volume to new year-to-date highs. The catalyst for the move was April comScore data which was surprisingly bullish for Expedia.
According to analysts at Piper Jaffray, "an index of 13 Europe based Expedia branded domains suggests there was a rapid acceleration in unique visitor growth during April to +32% y/y vs. +7% y/y during March." The analysts bumped their price target on the stock in light of this new information from $44.00 to $53.00.
What is interesting about the stock is that it has a very high short interest even as it is hitting new highs. In recent trading sessions, as much as 23% of EXPE's float had been sold short. This is important information, because it could be a catalyst for continued gains in the stock as these short-sellers cover their bearish bets.
The April comScore data and yesterday's rally suggests two things - first, the shorts may be wrong about trends at the company, and second that the market was caught off guard. Because of the unexpected nature of the data, and the stock's high short interest, EXPE could be primed for more gains.
It also may be of some value to talk about notorious momentum stock Priceline.com (NASDAQ: PCLN) when discussing Expedia. Simply put, PCLN has been a beast of a stock, but the trend has turned bearish in the name. Over the last 5 years, PCLN has risen nearly 1,000%. Year-to-date, the stock is still up more than 42%. Nevertheless, PCLN has now fallen more than 12% in the month of May while EXPE has continued to climb.
We have seen former famous high-fliers such as Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (NASDAQ: GMCR) implode in recent years, and a similar pattern could potentially play out in PCLN. Obviously, timing these sorts of movements is very difficult, but one potential trade idea would be to go long EXPE and short PCLN against it with the view that the latter stock may be embarking on a significant correction. If the shorts decide to capitulate in EXPE and begin buying back shares, and PCLN continues on its downtrend, this trade could potentially be quite profitable.
Traders who believe that the strong April traffic data for Expedia's properties combined with the high short interest could catalyze more gains in EXPE might want to consider the following trades:
- Purchase EXPE shares
- Buy EXPE shares against a short position in a stock like Priceline.com
- Buy EXPE call options or make a similarly bullish options bet on the stock
Traders who believe that the shorts will be proven correct and that EXPE is going to follow PCLN lower may consider alternative positions:
- Shorting EXPE shares
- Shorting related companies such as TripAdvisor, which has a short interest above 12%
- Buying put options on EXPE or related companies or taking a similarly bearish position using options
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