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Macerich's Largest Shareholder Uses Short-Squeeze Bump To Sell Entire Stake


The Macerich Co.'s brief dalliance with Reddit's army of retail investors had a major effect on its ownership structure.

Macerich's largest shareholder, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, sold its 16% stake in the company for around $500M on Jan. 27, Bloomberg reports. In several trades over the course of the day, OTPP sold 24.56 million shares at an average price of $20.25, according to a 13D filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A Jan. 27 post on the Reddit forum r/WallStreetBets declaring Macerich "the next Gamestop" caused a spike to nearly $26 that day. Just as they did with GameStop and AMC, the day traders who populate the forum noticed that a large portion of shares in Macerich were held by short positions and led a campaign to buy and hold enough shares to financially damage the hedge funds that had taken the short positions.

Unlike with GameStop, Macerich's gains proved fleeting. Though the retail landlord's stock value at the close of trading on Feb. 1 was only slightly lower at $14.01 than its $14.25 value at the end of trading on Jan. 22, the portion of its public shares held by short positions stayed over 56%, according to Seeking Alpha.

Part of what dragged Macerich's value back down could have been OTPP hitting the eject button while the market was briefly hot. When the Canadian pension fund first invested in the mall owner in 2014, its 11% stake was worth over $1.2B, and its willingness to take over a 50% loss on that initial bet could have signaled to the market at large a lack of faith in Macerich's long-term prospects, a Green Street adviser told The Real Deal.

While those who continue to hold GameStop point to its growing e-commerce presence and other indicators to justify their position beyond animus toward hedge funds, pure real estate companies like Macerich have much less ability to pivot away from shopping malls, even the best of which have experienced a collapse in value in the past few years.

Macerich's preliminary Q4 earnings, released on Feb. 1, may have lent credence to pessimists, as it projected a $190M loss for the quarter and funds from operation of 45 cents per share, below analysts' estimates of 57 cents a share.