January 12, 2011
Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
What: Shares of real estate developer St. Joe (NYSE: JOE ) jumped as much as 10% in intraday trading, as investors digested a slew of news involving the company.
So what: Late yesterday, St. Joe announced that the Securities and Exchange Commission is launching an informal inquiry into the company's practices involving real estate asset impairments. The issue lies at the center of a fierce debate between hedge fund manager David Einhorn and Fairholme Fund's (Nasdaq: FAIRX ) Bruce Berkowitz. Einhorn asserts that the company has refused to take needed write-downs, while Berkowitz has been standing behind the company and his fund's huge stake in it. Also within the last 24 hours, Berkowitz and St. Joe agreed to end a standstill that prevented Fairholme from buying more than its current 30% stake. Fairholme may also have drawn another major institutional investor to its side; BlackRock (NYSE: BLK ) disclosed that it had nearly doubled its stake to close to 13%.
Now what: With seriously high-caliber investors on both sides of the scuffle, it's tough to decide whom to support. Thankfully, I'm more than happy to watch this one play out from the sidelines. Now that Fairholme no longer has the standstill agreement blocking it, it seems very possible that the fund could look for ways to take St. Joe private so that it can tend to its business without the pressure of the public markets.
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