If there's one thing investors can't call David Einhorn, it's a liar.
Greenlight Capital, the hedge fund company that billionaire David Einhorn manages, recently disclosed that it increased its holdings by 20% in Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) as of the end of last year. At current levels, Greenlight owns approximately $600 million of Apple, making it the firm's largest holding. Perhaps even more noteworthy is that Einhorn picked up $146 million in Apple call options during the fourth quarter of 2012. Not only does this combined $746 million position in Apple represent extreme optimism, but more than 11% of the fund's total value is now long Apple. With such a concentrated position, Apple will surely make or break Einhorn's year.
Mind you, Einhorn loaded up on Apple before he made quite a splash with his convoluted preferred-share issuance proposal. In a nutshell, Einhorn is proposing for Apple to issue 4% yielding perpetual preferred shares in increments of $50 billion offer, which he believes that every $50 billion in returned capital should "unlock" about $32 per share on the common stock. Over the long term, Einhorn thinks Apple will be able to return "several hundred billion dollars," which in theory should add a few hundred dollars in share price, assuming the logic pans out.
With Apple options now in play, Einhorn has taken the stance that Apple will ultimately return more capital to shareholders, and that should act as a short-term catalyst for Apple's share price. Under this scenario, call options will give Einhorn the opportunity to make quick profits and help mitigate the losses associated with the 30%-plus decline in Apple's shares since September.
Aside from "thoroughly considering" the proposal, Apple has yet to reach a formal decision on what to do about its $137 billion in cash. During the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, CEO Tim Cook told investors that Apple doesn't have a "Depression-era mentality." Because the company makes such risky bets on its small product lines, it takes a conservative stance when it comes to managing finances.
No matter the outcome, I think it's safe to say that Greenlight is in a hurry to make up for Apple's underperformance. Although I believe in the long-term prospects of Apple, I don't believe in inviting more risk to your investment portfolio in exchange for some short-term gains. Being an Apple investor today takes patience in a market that fails to acknowledge that the company isn't on life support.