Laurent Condon Wins My Shorting Contest - Again

Short sellers bet on selected stocks to go down

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Sep 19, 2022
Summary
  • Readers are welcome to participate in the annual contest.
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Laurent Condon, a professional trader in France, won my Short Sellers Don’t Have Horns short-selling contest -- his second triumph in the annual competition.

Condon previously won the contest in 2017-18, and finished third the following year. He has also excelled in some of my other contests.

In addition to the short-selling contest, I run a traditional stock-picking contest called Dorfman’s Three-Stock Derby and an economic prediction contest called Derby of Economic Forecasting Talent, or DEFT.

Condon has finished first and third in the traditional stock-picking contest, so he has taken honors in five of my contests – the best showing of any individual.

So far, he hasn’t won any prizes in the economic forecasting contest. “As you may know from my laughable results in your DEFT contests, I have no clue about macroeconomics,” he wrote me a few days ago.

Short sellers bet on selected stocks to go down. They borrow stock and sell it. At some point, they must buy it back, but if the price declines in the meantime, they profit. Think of it as buying low and selling high, in reverse order.

Outstanding year

Contestants in my latest shorting competition did remarkably well: All 16 entrants picked a stock that declined. That’s a feat never before achieved in the 19-year history of this contest.

The median return was about 56%, the second-largest in contest history. The largest was 80% in September 2000-01, when a fierce bear market was raging.

The latest contest ran from Sept. 30, 2021 through Sept. 9, 2022. A new one will start soon. You are invited to play, whether you sell stocks short in real life or not.

First place

Condon scored a 91% return on his short sale of Camber Energy Inc. (

CEI, Financial), which was remarkable considering that most energy stocks did well in the past year.

He said a year ago that Camber had “no earnings, decreasing sales, (and) bad management.” The stock had spurted, based on a press relation regarding a “patented carbon-capture system.”

Condon felt there was less to that news than met the eye. “It seemed to me that the management was more busy issuing press releases…than running their business,” he said.

Also, Camber showed what Condon called “explosive stock issuance.” When a company issues new shares, it typically dilutes the value of old ones.

Now, one of his favorite shorts is MicroStrategy Inc. (

MSTR, Financial). “Officially, that’s a software company,” he said. “But actually it’s a very risky financial instrument, bitcoins on steroids, i.e., bitcoins bought with debts. We are talking multibillion debt here.”

Second place

David Heilman, a retired attorney in Las Vegas, Nevada, seized second place with an 88% gain on a short sale of Carvana Co. (CNVA). Carvana sells used cars online, and delivers some of them from buildings that resemble giant vending machines. Its debt is more than 15 times the company’s net worth.

Carvana was at about $322 when Heilman entered the contest, and now is at about $33. Heilman thinks the stock market will be “choppy and range bound” in the next 12 months.

Third place

Derek Galbraith of Westmount, Quebec, Canada, took third with a 79% gain shorting Beyond Meat Inc. (

BYND, Financial). He is president of Lanart Rug.

“Beyond Meat valued at a ridiculous 15 times sales is an easy pick,” he wrote a year ago. He said the company is “nothing special, just a struggling vegetarian meat provider.”

Galbraith thinks the market will be in a “holding pattern” for two or three months while investors seek clarity about inflation. But he expects 2023 to be better. “It’s hard to see a bad recession when unemployment is historically low,” he said.

You can play

You are cordially invited to enter my 20th annual Short Sellers Don’t Have Horns short-selling contest.

Pick a stock that you expect will decline a lot from Sept. 30 of this year through Sept. 8, 2023.

Entries must include your name, home city, phone number, email and the name of the stock you think will fizzle. It must be a U.S.-based stock. You are not required to give your reasons, but I appreciate it if you do.

You are not required to sell short the stock with real money, but it is OK if you do.

First place carries a prize, chosen at my discretion. Past prizes have included a shortcake and an album by pianist Bobby Short. Second and third place carry no prize but glory.

Send entries to [email protected] by midnight on Sept. 30. If you prefer old-fashioned mail, write to John Dorfman, Dorfman Value Investments, Suite 1900, 101 Federal Street, Boston, MA 02110.

John Dorfman is chairman of Dorfman Value Investments in Boston, Massachusetts. His firm or clients may own or trade the stocks discussed here. He can be reached at [email protected]

Disclosures

I am/we currently own positions in the stocks mentioned, and have NO plans to sell some or all of the positions in the stocks mentioned over the next 72 hours. Click for the complete disclosure
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