AMC brief sellers dealt an enormous $ 1.2 billion blow after the inventory rally

Street performers in Minnie Mouse costumes walk past an AMC movie theater in New York’s Times Square at night on October 15, 2020.

Amir Hamja | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Investors short of meme stock AMC Entertainment have lost an estimated $ 1.23 billion in the past week, as stocks are up more than 116% since Monday, according to S3 Partners.

The rally cooled off late Friday after AMC stock surged up to 38% during early morning trading. The stock closed at $ 26.12 per share on Friday, down from $ 13.68 on Monday. At its peak, the stock hit $ 36.72 per share.

AMC was by far the most active stock on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday as more than 650 million shares changed hands. According to FactSet, the average trading volume after 30 days is just over 100 million shares.

With 450 million shares outstanding, the entire company changed hands nearly 1.5 times during Friday’s trading.

So-called short coverage could add to AMC’s massive rally this week. The company has shorted about 20% of its outstanding shares, compared to an average of 5% short on a typical US stock, S3 Partners said.

When a sharply shortened stock bounces up quickly, short sellers are forced to buy back borrowed stocks to close their short position and reduce losses. The forced buy tends to drive the rally even further.

AMC’s new retail investors, who are 3.2 million strong, owned approximately 80% of the company’s 450 million shares outstanding as of March 11, AMC reported earlier this month. Their efforts, which soared in January, raised the stock from $ 5 to $ 20 per share and allowed AMC to reduce its debt burden by around $ 600 million.

The retail investor agenda was to keep AMC alive and hold onto the hedge funds, an analyst told CNBC.

AMC’s stock has risen more than 1,100% since January has defied the predictions of Wall Street analysts. AMC’s business was extremely strained. The company has roughly $ 5 billion in debt and has had to postpone repayments on lease agreements of $ 450 million as its revenues largely dried up during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The cinemas were closed for several months to stop the virus from spreading. When the company reopened its doors, few consumers were comfortable attending film screenings and film studios withheld new releases.

As the cinema business recovers, AMC is still facing tough headwinds. Although the company ended the first quarter with $ 1 billion in liquidity, the highest in its 100-year history, that money will only keep it afloat until 2022 unless audiences come back in droves for months without offsetting revenue.

While early box office revenues are promising, fundamental elements of the cinema business have changed over the past year, including theater capacity, joint release dates with streaming services, and the number of days that movies are shown in theaters.

“Anything that’s really important here in the long term will never make money to this company again,” said Rich Greenfield, co-founder of LightShed Partners, on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Friday morning. “You will never generate cash with your current capital structure. It was trading at seven times EBITDA before the pandemic. It is currently trading at 25 times EBITDA and is now in a worse position with the changed industry. This is simply contrary to all logic . “

On the last day of 2019, AMC had a market value of $ 751.87 million. On Friday, that figure was around $ 11.9 billion, according to FactSet.

– CNBC’s Yun Li contributed to this report.

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