Elon Musk’s Twitter Buyout Was A Billion Dollar Windfall For These 13 Hedge Funds

Illustration by Gracelynn Wan for Forbes; Photos by Rodolfo Glcksberg/EyeEmby/Getty Images; Imran Kadir/Getty Images

For many hedge funds, Elon Musk’s $44 billion “forced” purchase of Twitter represented an easy money trade.“You didn’t have to be a genius to realize that he was going to finish that deal,” said Carl Icahn at the Forbes Iconoclast Summit on November 3, adding that he would have considered waging a proxy fight if the deal fell through.

Icahn told the audience at New York’s Historical Society that he made a profit of around $250 million by investing in Twitter this summer. But he was far from the only one to benefit. Regulatory filings show that billionaire-led hedge funds including Citadel Advisors, Millennium Management, D.E. Shaw and Third Point built large positions in Twitter in the second and third quarters, as well as other firms like Pentwater Capital and Farallon Capital.

Musk signed a merger agreement to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share in April, but the stock was trading as low as $32.65 by July when he tried to terminate the deal. That created an arbitrage opportunity for as much as a 66% return for investors who doubted Musk had much of a chance in the Delaware Court of Chancery to back out.

Icahn’s third-quarter 13-F filing with the SEC shows that he owned 12.5 million Twitter shares as of September 30. He said at the Forbes summit he bought in the mid-$30s–if he bought at an average price of $35 per share and made a $19.20 profit on each one when the deal closed at the original price of $54.20 per share on October 28, he would have netted a $240 million profit.

The only fund that made a bigger bet than Icahn was Naples, Florida-based Pentwater Capital Management, founded by Matthew Halbower in 2007. It bought 18.1 million shares during the second quarter and added another 5.3 million shares as of the end of the third quarter.

If it bought those 24 million shares at Twitter stock’s median closing price of $40.16 in the first quarter and $41.05 in the second quarter and held them through the completion of the acquisition in October, it would have made $324 million in profit, though its 13-F filing shows it hedged some of those gains by buying put options as well. Pentwater didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In all, Forbes found 13 hedge funds that spent upwards of $100 million adding to their Twitter stakes between the end of the first quarter and the end of the third quarter this year. We reached out to each fund to ask for average purchase prices, and estimated that they bought at Twitter’s median closing price in each quarter if more precise information wasn’t available. These funds cumulatively purchased more than 10% of the company in the six months leading up to September 30 and likely made well over $1 billion in profits on the deal.

These numbers don’t include any additional shares the firms may have purchased in October, when the margins were slimmer while Musk finalized the acquisition, and don’t include possible trading that took place within each quarter. 13-F filings show a simple snapshot of each firm’s long stock holdings on the last day of each quarter and don’t provide enough information to pin down exact gains and losses, but often represent the most thorough picture of what funds are buying and selling.

The biggest winners included Hong Kong-based Segantii Capital Management, founded by British investor Simon Sadler, and Farallon Capital, the San Francisco-based firm founded by Thomas Steyer in 1986 and now run by Andrew Spokes.

David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital initiated a position of 4.3 million shares in the third quarter, his 13-F filing shows, and he wrote in a letter to investors viewed by Forbes that the average purchase price was $37.24 per share. He expected that the Delaware Court of Chancery would be wary of inviting future buyer’s remorse suits if it let Musk walk away.

“The case law on this is quite clear. If it were anyone other than Musk, we would handicap the odds of the buyer wiggling out of the deal to be much less than 5%,” Einhorn wrote in the letter prior to the completion of the deal. “At this price there is $17 per share of upside if TWTR prevails in court and we believe about $17 per share of downside, if the deal breaks. So, we are getting 50-50 odds on something that should happen 95%+ of the time.”

Musk saw the writing on the wall and reversed course in October, agreeing to pay the full price as these investors expected. His first weeks as Twitter’s owner have been marked by confusion and complaints after he opened verification to anyone willing to pay $8 per month, causing a wave of “verified” parody accounts, and laid off 3,700 employees, almost half of its staff. He has warned Twitter’s staff that “bankruptcy is not out of the question,” but if his $44 billion equity investment goes up in smoke, the hedge funds he paid that cash to will be laughing all the way to the bank.

I’m a reporter on Forbes’ money team covering investing trends and Wall Street’s difference-makers. I’ve reported on the world’s billionaires for Forbes’ wealth team

Source: Elon Musk’s Twitter Buyout Was A Billion Dollar Windfall For These 13 Hedge Funds

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How This Billionaire-Backed Crypto Startup Gets Paid To Not Mine Bitcoin

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It’s everyone’s dream to get paid to do nothing. Bitcoin miner Layer1 is turning that dream into reality — having figured out how to make money even when its machines are turned off. 

Layer1 is a cryptocurrency startup backed by the likes of billionaire Peter Thiel. In recent months, out in the hardscrabble land of west Texas, the company has been busy erecting steel boxes (think shipping containers) stuffed chockablock with high-end processors submerged inside cooling baths of mineral oil. Why west Texas? Because thanks to a glut of natural gas and a forest of wind turbines, power there is among the cheapest in the world — which is what you need for crypto.

“Mining Bitcoin is about converting electricity into money,” says Alex Liegl, CEO and co-founder. By this fall Layer1 will have dozens of these boxes churning around the clock to transform 100 megawatts into a stream of Bitcoin. Liegl says their average cost of production is about $1,000 per coin — equating to a 90% profit margin at current BTC price of $9,100.

So it’s odd how excited Liegl is about the prospect of having to shut down his Bitcoin miners this summer.

Already this year west Texas has seen a string of 100-degree days. But the real heat and humidity don’t hit until August, which is when the Texas power grid strains under the load of every air conditioning unit in the state going full blast. During an intense week in 2019, wholesale electricity prices in the grid region managed by the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) soared from about $120 per megawatthour to peak out at $9,000 per mwh. It was only the third time in history that Texas power hit that level. And although the peak pricing only lasted an hour or so, that’s enough to generate big profits. Analyst Hugh Wynne at research outfit SSR figures that Texas power generators make about 15% of annual revenues during the peak 1% of hours (whereas in more temperate California grid generators only get 3% of revs from the top 1%).

Turns out that running a phalanx of Bitcoin miners is a great way to arbitrage those peaks. Layer1 has entered into so-called “demand response” contracts whereby at a minute’s notice they will shut down all their machines and instead allow their 100 mw load to flow onto the grid. “We act as an insurance underwriter for the energy grid,” says Liegl, 27. “If there is an insufficiency of supply we can shut down.” The best part, they get paid whether a grid emergeny occurs or not. Just for their willingness to shut in Bitcoin production, Layer1 collects an annual premium equating to $19 per megawatthour of their expected power demand — or about $17 million. Given Layer1’s roughly $25 per mwh long-term contracted costs, this gets their all-in power price down 75% to less than 1 cent per kwh (just 10% of what residential customers pay).

It may seem like grid operators are paying Layer1 a lot for something that might not even happen, especially with coronavirus reducing electricity demand, but it makes total sense, says Ed Hirs, a lecturer in energy economics at the University of Houston and research fellow at consultancy BDO: “It’s a lot cheaper option than building a whole new power plant or battery system just to keep it on standby.”

And although this may be a new concept for cryptocurrency miners, it’s been done before. Two decades ago industrialist Charles Hurwitz bought up power-hogging aluminum smelters in the Pacific Northwest and made more money reselling electricity than making metal. “It used to be called load management,” says Dan Delurey, a consultant with Wedgemere Group. “In old commercial buildings you might still find telephone wires connected to air conditioning systems so that grid operators could send a signal to shut off.” More recently we’ve seen companies install radio-based devices to control hot water heaters and lighting systems. Indeed, grid management is a hot enough area that in 2017 Italy’s power giant Enel bought Boston-based Enernoc for $250 million and Itron ITRI bought Comverge for $100 million. What’s emerged are entities, like Layer1, that Delurey calls the “prosumer” — producing consumer.

As for Layer1, Liegl says his next step is to vertically integrate into financial products, including Bitcoin derivatives and more. “We are building an in-house energy trading division to leverage this into being a virtual power plant.”

His message to any pikers still trying to mine cryptocurrencies from their bedroom PC or even via cloud services: “I can’t think of something more irrational at this point. It’s like if I wanted to dig a hole in my backyard and try to get oil out of the ground.”

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Tracking energy innovators from Houston, Texas. Forbes reporter since 1999.

 

Source: https://www.forbes.com

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