A coalition of forces or an independent attack
When Nick Leeson tried to corner the Nikkei with the war chest of his bank, he believed that his bank was big enough to bank roll him against the small investors. He was successful initially as the rest of the investors were acting alone and lack the fire power to contest him. But when the stakes got too high, the Japanese investors got worried of his position. A crash of Nikkei could bring about a series of events that were difficult to control. The zaibatsu and the big guys gathered together to deal a deadly blow to this young turk acting alone. In unison, they took position against Leeson and the rest is history.
An almost similar picture happened during the Asian financial crisis when the big funds from the west formed an informal coalition to sell down the Hongkong market. HK stock exchange and its financial sector could be ruined if not stopped. The taipans, the HK Govt and the Chinese Govt got together with a bigger war chest to defend the onslaught and the victors were obvious. The western big funds took a rubbing and went back to lick their wounds.
In the local market we are seeing a smaller scale onslaught of a single stock, Olam International. The modus operandi is different. There is a report on the accounting and business practices of Olam put up by Muddy Waters to justify the sell down. The shorting of the stock has been going on for weeks. Olam is resisting and defending its management and business decisions. These have become side issues. The main thrust is the shorting of the stock in the market. At this point in time Olam appears to be losing ground as there is no let up in the selling.
It was reported that 12% of Olam scripts were on loan, probably to parties that were shorting the stocks. Who is going to win this battle of wits or is it a matter of war chest? Muddy Waters on its own could do just so much damage. Could it still be shorting and keep exposing itself to bigger position, alone? Or is it working in coalition with other parties to short down the stock?
At the other side, is Olam buying and supporting its stock value? If Olam is defending its position just by clarifying its management decisions and not buying back its stocks, it is going to be a losing proposition. And working alone to defend a stock without knowing how many parties are in cahoot with Muddy Waters to press down the value of Olam is not going to work.
What are the big funds here doing? Are they shorting the stocks as well or just standing on the sideline waiting to see what happens? How would the crash of Olam, if the shorting continues, affect the general well being of the stock market and the financial system?
The other issues to note, is Olam deserving to be sold down? If there are fraudulent practices, the fate of Olam is as good as sealed. If it is just a management decision, a fair practice, would any party think it is good to prevent a viable company from being destroyed by short sellers?
No one in the market is any wiser except the insiders. Are the local funds and big wigs willing to join force to defend Olam, if they could think of a reason? Or would the big shareholders of Olam get together to defend their investment? Or would they join force with the short sellers and sell down the stock in the quiet hoping to buy back with big profits at lower prices?
Who are the players, the short sellers in this game? In any situation of such a nature, the wolf pack or hyenas would often strike in unison, as a coalition, and the victim would be defenceless on its own. This is the precarious nature of the stock market when funds can move quickly, in tandem to cause destruction of stocks, stock markets or the financial system of a country, particularly the small ones. It is rare to have a repeat of the defence against Nick Leeson or the onslaught of the HKSE by the taipans and the Chinese Govt. Is it fair game, market forces?