The stupidity of scrip lenders
The lending of shares to short sellers in the stock market was originally a scheme to facilitate error trading by investors. Short selling was also an offence in many stock markets or at least discouraged for obvious reasons. The encouragement by stock exchanges to facilitate scrip lending to sellers who short the market to make a quick profit for the right or wrong reasons is turning into a game of stupidity for the owners of scrips. It also makes the exchanges look just as silly.
Scrip owners or long term investors are encouraged to deposit their scrips or make them available for short term loans in return for a small fee that is nothing more than the prevailing interest rate. To earn such a pittance, the investors risk the value of stocks they are invested in to be driven down to ridiculous level and to suffer heavy losses.
The latest case of Olam International is a glaring example of how stupid this scheme has become and how silly the long term investors were made to look. They were actually helping the short sellers to destroy the value of their investments by lending them scrips to short sell. How could stock exchanges encourage such a scam is unbelieveable.
In a period of 6 months, from mid May to mid November 2012, the number of Olam scrips on loan increased from about 6% to 12%. In the same period, the price of Olam was down from around $2.20 to $$1.70. This is a loss of 50c or more than 20% of the value in May. If 100 million scrips were on loan, it amounts to a loss of $50m. How much could the owners of these 100m scrips get for lending the shares to the short sellers, $500k?
Is this so difficult arithmetic to understand that the scheme is so nonsensical and daft to the long term investors? Scrip lending only makes sense when it is in small numbers and does not affect the price of the shares aversely. It is useful to facilitate the smooth functioning of a stock market. When it is being abused, when it is used to destroy the value of a stocks, why would investors want to participate in such a scam to incur losses? Why would stock exchanges think that this is a good thing to encourage and to make it so convenient to borrow scrips in big amounts to destroy the value of stocks like in the case of Olam?
You don’t need to be a genius to work out the sums and to cry foul. The only people who could benefit from this scheme are the short sellers and long term investors who are also shorting the market to buy them back later. Obviously there are some long term investors with big holdings that would participate in such a scam. In the Olam case, the owner, the biggest holder of the stocks, is crying foul as a huge sum of money has been wiped out from the value of the stock. Olam International, as the major owner, cannot participate in such a scam as it would be questioned and may even be found guilt for insider trading or share manipulation. Other than Muddy Waters, who are the other best scrip lenders that are making a killing in this sell down? Unlikely to be Olam.
This can happen to Olam and any other stocks, the minority shareholders and the owners would be the ultimate losers. The manipulators would be laughing to the banks cause the stock exchanges allow it through the scrip lending scheme and short selling.