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Bets Against Twilio Climb Thanks to Fresh Supply of Shares

November 3, 2016, 2:11 PM UTC
Jeff Lawson, Founder, CEO, & Chairman of Twilio takes a selfie photo during his company's IPO on the floor of the NYSE
Jeff Lawson, (C) Founder, CEO, & Chairman of Communications software provider Twilio Inc., takes a selfie photo during his company's IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RTX2HTA7
Brendan McDermid — Reuters

Bets against shares in Twilio have climbed in recent days, thanks in part to a recent follow-on stock offer that increased the supply of shares available to traders.

Twilio’s shares were down about 1% early Thursday morning, adding to a recent sell-off in the San Francisco software company’s stock following a June IPO and a meteoric rally. Short sellers attracted to Twilio’s lofty stock price in recent months have ridden it lower and are showing no signs of relenting.

Another factor likely to contribute to volatility—the company is set to report on its second set of financials as a public company after the market close. Analysts anticipate Twilio to disclose third-quarter revenue of around $67 million. On Oct. 11, two business days after announcing plans for its follow-on share offer, Twilio reported preliminary third-quarter results that beat analysts’ expectations.

Twilio’s software is used by large companies including Netflix, WhatsApp and Uber, allowing them to speak with and text customers without exchanging contact information.

After Twilio’s stock hit a record high in September, short interest against it has increased by about 30% to about 7.5 million shares, equivalent to $250 million, according to S3 Partners, a financial analytics firm.

By mid-October, short sellers had borrowed virtually every share available in order to bet against the company, pushing the annualized interest rate they paid to the shares owners’ up to 100% and temporarily putting a virtual stop to additional short positions.

Short sellers borrow shares and then sell them, hoping to repurchase them at a lower price and then return them to their owner. In the meantime, they must also pay interest to the owner.

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Twilio (TWLO) on Oct. 20 sold an additional 7 million shares, mostly on behalf of existing shareholders, significantly increasing the number of shares available for lending and allowing short sellers to make new bets against the company.

Since then, the stock has fallen 22%, bringing Twilio’s sell-off from the end of September to 50%.

“Shorts that couldn’t get in before are now getting in,” said Ihor Dusaniwsky, S3’s head of research. “If the trend continues, in another couple of weeks you will be back up to a really expensive borrow.”

Analysts are unusually cautious on Twilio, with just one recommending its shares and eight analysts rating the stock “hold,” according to Thomson Reuters data. None recommend selling.