The total number of Alibaba’s outstanding shares borrowed for short selling reached its highest point at more than 124 million last week, reaching the highest since its record $25 billion initial public offering in September 2014.
According to data compiled by Markit, the short selling increased from about 60 million in December, indicating that a bearish mood has grown among investors as the company disclosed a regulatory investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as well as a $10 billion sales by SoftBank, its largest shareholder.
Well-known short sellers including Jim Chanos and John Hempton have been red-flagging Alibaba for months, arguing that Alibaba’s financial figures might be too good to be true.
“An accumulation of factors has made it more and more attractive for short sellers to target Alibaba amid SEC’s probe and SoftBank’s sale”, said Gil Luria, an analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc, adding that “if the SEC found that Alibaba has engaged in improper accounting methods, the company would have to restate its results, and that would be very detrimental. It would also cast an even greater shadow of Chinese companies listed in the U.S. since Alibaba is so high profile.”
Nonetheless, not all fund managers are keeping away from Alibaba stock.
Singapore’s GIC Private and Temasek Holdings each reportedly purchased $500 million of Alibaba stock at $74 per share through subsidiaries.
Moreover, most stock analysts tracking Alibaba remain bullish, with 37 of them rating it as buy-in, 6 advising hold on, and none recommending sales. The company reported sales of 24.2 billion yuan in the first quarter with goods sold on its e-commerce platforms hitting a 3 trillion-yuan milestone during the same period.