I just read a fascinating story in The Economist that would have probably gotten more attention in the U.S. but for our recent distractions. It seems Porsche made possibly €12 billion on the Deutsche Bourse by cornering the market in Volkswagen shares:
Porsche’s gambit was as old as finance itself. For about three years it had been steadily increasing its stake in VW, a much larger yet less profitable carmaker with which it shares a little production. Its buying had driven up the price of VW’s shares to above the level at which it would make any economic sense for Porsche to buy VW. Seeing this, hedge funds sold shares in VW that they did not own. One strategy was a bet that VW’s share price would fall. Some also bought shares in Porsche, in a wager that shares of both would converge.
[O]n October 26th it executed a handbrake turn, saying that it owned nearly 43% of VW’s shares outright and had derivative contracts on nearly 32% more. That meant it had tied up almost all of the freely available shares (the rest are held by the state government and index funds). Hedge funds quickly did the maths, concluding that they could be caught in an “infinite squeeze” in which they were forced to buy shares at any price.
Huh. Sucks to own a hedge fund right now.