Look Who Dumped Their Apple Shares Last Quarter

February 22, 2016, 3:30 PM UTC
Trading Begins On The Floor Of The New York Stock Exchange
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during early trading on April 25, 2013 in New York City.
Photograph by Spencer Platt — Getty Images

Apple, the U.S. markets’ most widely held and actively traded stock, lost 5% of its value last quarter, despite the company’s heavy hand in the market. Apple bought a total of 46 million of its own shares, 26 million in the open market and another 20 million through an accelerated stock repurchase program.

If Apple was buying, who was selling?

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We got the answer last week, when funds with more than $100,000 under management reported their holdings to the Securities and Exchange Commission, as they are required to do four times a year. For the rest of the 361 days, it bears repeating, most of these institutions are giant black holes.

Carl Icahn and David Einhorn made the biggest splash when reporters noticed that between them they had sold nearly 12 million shares of Apple (AAPL).

(Click between Before and After to see how their Apple holdings changed in the space of three months.)

Icahn and Einhorn are hardly Apple bears, however. Even after selling 7 million shares, Icahn still has 82% of his holdings in the company.

Paris-based Société Générale, on the other hand, unloaded nearly 38 million shares in three months, 91% of its Apple holdings. Among the biggest Apple sellers, Icahn barely made the top five.

Harder to track is the fast-moving derivatives market, where investors hedge their bets and speculators go for quick profits through the purchase and sale of complex option contracts. The biggest options player last quarter was Susquehanna International, a privately held trading company that makes a market in the stock. As near as I can tell, the 20 million shares it offloaded last quarter were more than offset by the 25 million puts it sold.

Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, was moving in the other direction. The 5 million shares of Apple it added to its portfolio were offset by the sale of more than 5 million calls.

All this is dwarfed by Apple’s two biggest shareholders, the Vanguard and Blackrock funds. Between them, they own nearly 640 million shares worth, at Friday’s closing price, roughly $60 billion. In this context, the 6 million shares Vanguard sold last quarter barely moved the needle.

Source: Whale Wisdom.

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