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Jun 22, 2017

Short-seller Cohodes not backing down on Home Capital

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Independent short-seller Marc Cohodes isn’t backing down on his bet against Home Capital Group (HCG.TO) despite Warren Buffett taking the opposite side of the trade, in what’s shaping up as a showdown between the Oracle of Omaha and a California chicken farmer.

In an interview on BNN, Cohodes said he is undeterred by Buffett’s plan to take a near-40 per cent stake in the alternative mortgage lender through a Berkshire Hathaway (BRKb.N) subsidiary.

“I’ve said that the equity is worthless, and I still stand by that and I welcome Warren to the party,” Cohodes said. “This deal’s a great deal for him. It’s a horrible deal for the shareholders.”

Cohodes, who has been among the most vocal bears on the company, said the deep share price discount sows doubt in his mind that there’s strong confidence on the part of Buffett. Buffett’s initial stake, which requires TSX approval to be exempt from a shareholder vote, prices shares at $9.55. Shares on the open market traded as high as $17 in early trading Thursday after the deal was announced.

“If everything was so great, why is this going at such a steep discount to the last sale?” Cohodes said.

Cohodes also questioned the terms of the line of credit offered to replace the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan facility. Berkshire’s credit line carries a 9.5 per cent rate until the completion of the initial tranche of investment, at which time it falls to nine percent. HOOPP’s credit line came in at 10 per cent, but did carry a much higher standby fee than the proposed replacement.

“It’s not really a way to run a railroad: [borrowing] money at nine and a half and lending it out at four,” Cohodes said.

In spite of the rally in Home Capital following the announcement, Cohodes, who has been short the name for more than a year, said he’s happy to give this time to play out.

“It’s a long game … and I’m a very patient man.” 

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