Of all the stocks negatively affected by Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) new product unveiling on Sept. 9, perhaps none were hurt quite as badly as that of sapphire supplier GT Advanced Technologies (NASDAQOTH:GTATQ).
Shares of GT Advanced have dropped more than 34% since then, thanks undoubtedly to Apple's decision not to use the company's durable sapphire crystal to protect its iPhone 6 displays. Instead, Apple described the iPhone 6 "cover glass" as an "ion-strengthened thing of beauty," indicating it was likely still using Corning's Gorilla Glass and kicking off GT Advanced's multiday plunge.
Consequently, as of the most recent Sept. 15 settlement date, it should come as no surprise that more than 55 million GT Advanced shares were being sold short, representing nearly 41% of the company's outstanding float.
That begs the question: Is GT Advanced Technologies a good short sell today? I'm not sure it is. In fact, if one thing is clear, it's that shorting GT Advanced now definitely isn't for the faint of heart.
GT Advanced could fall further from here...
First, there's still some debate surrounding why exactly GT Advanced's sapphire didn't make the cut for the iPhone 6.
Sapphire-centric analyst Matt Margolis insisted Apple's plan only weeks prior was still to use sapphire, but cited supply chain sources as stating the iPhone 6's unique curved edges resulted in frustratingly low yields from sapphire finishers in China.
Even more worrisome, VentureBeat later reported that an IDC analyst's channel checks revealed sapphire-covered iPhone 6 devices "repeatedly cracked during standard drop tests conducted by Apple suppliers."
Should either turn out to be true, that means GT Advanced's sapphire has significant hurdles to overcome before it can truly be deemed worthy of protecting any iDevice larger than the Apple Watch -- two versions of which will be covered in the scratch-resistant material when it launches in early 2015.
Considering GT Advanced management last quarter told investors it expects 80% of this year's revenue to come from the sapphire business, any hiccups there could absolutely crush the stock.
... but shorting now is a risky proposition
However, patent filings in early September revealed Apple has been working on a method to further harden sapphire screens by implanting ions much in the same way Gorilla Glass already does. If that's the case -- and a resolution is also found to boost sapphire finishers' yields -- a new and improved iPhone sapphire display from GT Advanced could still be in the cards down the road.
There's also another potentially positive theory in play: Almost a week after Apple's unveiling, Time magazine tech contributor Tim Bajarin argued that Apple never intended to use sapphire to protect iPhone 6 displays in the first place. He cited a multitude of factors influencing Apple's decision, including sapphire's increased cost, added weight, negative environmental impact, and -- despite superior scratch resistance -- its propensity to break when covering larger surface areas like that on an iPhone.
This might sound negative at first, but Barjarin's argument would have positive repercussions for GT Advanced. If Apple's plans for sapphire never included the iPhone 6, this means GT Advanced's long-term sapphire supply arrangement with the tech giant isn't slated for any big negative surprises. Assuming GT Advanced was in the loop here, the company wouldn't need to negatively revise its existing guidance.
It's also not as though Apple's current sapphire requirements are inconsequential. It still uses sapphire to protect the iPhone 6 camera lens and Touch ID button, after all. And recent supply chain rumblings say Apple expects to sell as many as 50 million Apple Watches next year, many of which will be covered with sapphire.
Answers are forthcoming
Luckily, we might not have to wait much longer for answers.
Earlier in September, GT Advanced said it would hold a "webcasted business update" sometime this week following the conclusion of its current quarter. Exact timing of the update has yet to be determined, but you can bet GT Advanced management is acutely aware of both investors' disappointment and the reasons behind the stock's recent fall.
One way or the other, what GT Advanced says during that webcast will almost certainly confirm whether the stock is indeed a good short. Personally, given the many ways GT Advanced could still come out on top here, shorting the stock now is a risk I'm unwilling to take.
Steve Symington owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
More from The Motley Fool
Corning Is About to Make Sapphire Displays Obsolete
Drops? Scratches? Corning's newest cover glass offers the best of both worlds.
Bankrupt Apple Supplier GT Advanced Technologies Wants to Give Performance Incentives
GT Advanced Technologies calls these proposed cash bonuses performance-driven incentives, but why not pay top employees in company stock?
The Biggest Tech Flops of 2014
Three of the year's most significant tech blunders.