(Bloomberg) — A burst of bets against Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc., the company founded by billionaire Richard Branson, over the past month has ratcheted up the temperature for short-sellers after the company delivered a successful test flight over the weekend.
Nearly 14 million shares of the Las Cruces, New Mexico-based company were sold short over the past 30 days, meaning the stock’s Monday surge after a test flight has dealt short-sellers millions of dollars in losses, data compiled by financial analytics company S3 Partners show. With short interest sitting at $949 million, more than a fifth of shares available for trading are sold short and that could prompt bears to cover their bets, S3 Partners said.
That increase in short selling has already resulted in mark-to-market losses of $427 million for bears this year — with $366 million of those losses occurring over the last eight days, Ihor Dusaniwsky, managing director of predictive analytics at S3 Partners, wrote in a report Monday. With short bets against the company getting more crowded and as losses increase, the company appears to be ripe for a short squeeze, he wrote.
A short squeeze occurs when a stock posts a large gain, forcing short sellers to cover their positions by buying shares, which in turn pushes the stock even higher.
Virgin Galactic soared as much as 21% in Monday’s trading to the highest level since April 14 after the company conducted its first test flight to space in more than two years. Michael Ciarmoli, an analyst at Truist Securities, called the event a “major milestone.”
With Virgin Galactic “stock price rallying, we should at minimum expect this surge in short selling come to an abrupt stop and more likely be replaced with short covering,” Dusaniwsky wrote. He also estimated that with losses piling up, it’s become increasingly likely that newer shorts may capitulate and trim their positions.
Read more: Virgin Galactic Surges on Successful Test Flight to Space
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