Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Short Position: BAGL

I mentioned this in a previous comment thread, but I shorted a few shares of Einstein Noah Restaurant Group (Nasdaq: BAGL) earlier today at $13.78. This company has an Altman Z"-Score1 of -3.2. A score below 1.1 suggests a company is at risk of bankruptcy within 1 to 2 years. It wouldn't be the first time an Einstein Bagels went bankrupt; a previous iteration of Einstein/Noah Bagels went bankrupt nine years ago. Insiders have been selling BAGL this year. The company also has negative working capital, over $117 million in total debt, less than $4 million in cash, and it's had a big run-up this year that doesn't seem to be justified by fundamentals.

On the other hand, David Einhorn, one of The Guru Five, is the largest investor in BAGL2, so bear that in mind. For my part though, I'm not going to let a guru's ownership of a stock keep me from shorting it. I did that last year, when I was bearish on USG, but didn't short it because Warren Buffett owned it. These guys put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us, and they often have different considerations than the rest of us do with these sorts of positions.

1Z"-Score is the designation for the modified, four-term version of the model recommended for publicly-traded (non-financial) non-manufacturing companies.

2Einhorn appears to have acquired his stake when he helped recapitalize the company after its bankruptcy, so his average cost here is probably very low. I don't have the energy to look up the exact figures, but feel free to do so yourself if the spirit moves you.

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