Carnegie and raiding party face credibility test over next target
BUY a small stake in a company, let it be known that you're a ginger group with some high-profile names, allow stories to circulate about a possible coup or maybe even that numbers are being sought for something bigger, become a factor in the share price rising - and then quietly sell out for a fat profit.
Nothing illegal about that, it's not insider trading. But it's reasonable to wonder if it is something rather like insider trading.
Having the Carnegie gang on the books and known to be agitating for change at Qantas certainly did the Roo's share price no harm. It has outperformed the market since the ginger group surfaced in late November.
You might think that exiting that stake - with about an $18 million profit - could cause the Qantas share price to fall. And it did. From the $1.515 close on Tuesday, Qantas shares dropped 3 per cent to a low of $1.465 on Wednesday morning before partially recovering. By the end of trade it was off 1.5¢ to $1.50 in a broadly higher market.
That's why you wouldn't inform the market of any intention to sell before the action. You're not required to. You'd be silly to.
As the vendor of such a high-profile "activist" stake, did the Carnegie crew have price-sensitive knowledge the rest of the market did not? It's a reasonable question.
If you can build a reputation as a raider, just your name appearing on the register is enough to lift share price and ensure profit. In the wild days of the '80s, Ron Brierley's Industrial Equity did it regularly. Often, a supposed raider's name could destabilise a company's register and trigger a bid from another party. Money for jam.
To maintain credibility, a raider needs to follow through occasionally. The 1.5 per cent Carnegie stake in Qantas was reportedly only held through certificates for difference - handy for a quick speculation but an expensive way of holding stock for more than the short term. Maybe they were never really serious.
The market might now wonder just how credible Carnegie and friends are the next time they pop up. Oh, that's right, they already have - as associates of Gina Rinehart on the Fairfax register.
Such games are further signs of a sharemarket turning bullish.