I recommended shorting MTN to my Short Seller’s Journal subscribers in my December 2nd issue. While I expect MTN to lose at least $200 over time, I did not expect nearly 25% of that price-decline expectation to occur in 5 trading days after I presented the idea.
After I sent out my newsletter last Sunday, a subscriber sent me a link to a Motley Fool article titled, “Why You’re Smart To Buy Vail Resorts Now.” I had to laugh. I certainly hope that report didn’t deter any of my subscribers from shorting MTN or buying puts. I booked a 4-bagger on the puts I bought last Friday. I had several subscribers email me with thanks, most reporting gains anywhere from 2x to 5x (I always advise that shorting shares gives you the best probability of success shorting but I use put options and present put option ideas with every short idea). Here’s an excerpt from this idea presentation last week:
Shorting MTN was an idea I had been thinking about for a few months. About two weeks ago I heard a radio ad from a Denver-based, national mortgage firm (American Financing) which pitched the idea of using a home equity loan to raise money for a down payment to purchase a ski resort condominium or house. At that instant I knew the top was in for both the mortgage underwriting business and mountain real estate. Shorting Vail Resorts is pretty much the only avenue for expressing a bearish view on mountain resort real estate.
The insiders at MTN must agree with my view. Over the last three months there have been 23 open market stock sale transactions and zero purchases. Over the last 12 months, there have been 38 open market stock sales and 1 purchase. The purchase was for just 225 shares in December 2017.
With the help of Fed money printing and highly accommodative bank commercial real estate lending policies, MTN went on a large resort acquisition spree. The highly accommodative Government mortgage programs helped MTN capitalize on 2nd home resort home sales. The stock ran from $16 in early 2009 to an all-time high of $301 on September 4, 2018.
The stock trades at a 30 p/e, which is absurd for a business with a top line that grew just 5% year over year for its fiscal year 2018, which ended at the end of September. As the falling economy begins to take a wrecking-ball to the resort industry, Vail Resorts revenues will tank and the Company will begin to take big asset write-downs (real estate and building values). This will send the stock mercilessly lower.
Having studied, researched and traded the real estate industry for the better part of 25 years, including trading this sector as a junk bond trader on Wall Street in the 1990’s, I know that mountain resort real estate has a beta of at least 2 vs metropolitan real estate.
When the sector goes bad, mountain properties go bad times at least 2. Vail Resorts is not immune to this just because Vail and Beaver Creek cater to the wealthier demographic. Many of MTN’s resorts host the middle class. This is the middle class that uses home equity loans to buy vacation properties. We saw the downside effect of mountain resort real estate leverage on Friday when MTN lost $48 – or 17.8% of its value – on one day on one earnngs “miss.”
I have not had a chance to dig elbow-deep into MTN’s earnings report yet. But by the time I release this Sunday’s next issue to my subscribers, I’ll have a good a idea about what happened and why last quarter and where my next bet will placed based on what will likely happen over the next 12 months with Vail Resorts’ fundamentals and stock price. That said, I have mentioned to colleagues that I expect, based on a rapidly deteriorating economy, that this coming ski season – though likely a banner year for snow quality – will fall well short of analyst expectations in terms of skier visits and money spent.
You can learn more about my stock shorting newsletter here: Short Seller’s Journal.