Well, the United Rentals tender offer that I participated in went through successfully. As expected, the offer was oversubscribed (press release), which means that more shares were offered than they were looking to buy. Only an estimated 34% of shares tendered will be bought, which left many would-be arbitrageurs holding shares of URI they didn’t really want. The stock price dropped to $16.83 as of the end of Friday.
Most Larger Investors Didn’t Do So Well
This means that even if you bought more than 100 shares at the lowest price available after the tender offer was announced ($18.95), sold whatever you could at $22 and sold the rest for the best price available afterwards ($17), you wouldn’t have made any profit. In fact, you would have lost about 4%. While you can always hold onto the stock and hope for a rebound, that leaves you as a stock investor, not an arbitrageur.
In practice, trying to game one of these tender offers on a large scale is very difficult. Even if you have confidence the offer will not be revoked, there are too many smart people playing. If the offer price is close to the current share price, the expected profit would be so low that the risk wouldn’t be worth it. If the offer price is significantly above the share price, then everyone will rush will tender their shares, ironically resulting in nobody being able to sell their shares.
Better Opportunity For Smaller Investors
However, if you bought an odd lot of 99 shares, which are given priority in many cases including this one, you would have gotten all your shares cashed out. Buying perfectly at $18.95 and selling at $22 would be a 16.1% gain in about a month’s time. Of course, your actual profit before commissions and fees would have only been $301.95. $300 is the cost of a schmoozing business lunch with a few martinis on Wall Street. Therefore, this is a great chance for small-time investors to have an edge.
My timing wasn’t quite perfect – I bought at $19.81 per share, resulting in a profit after fees of $191.91 (9.8%) in less than a month. Annualized return is likely to be north of 100%. Even after taxes, that will be buy me over 25 meals from the lunch carts.
I’m pretty picky about which of these offers I decide to jump into, so we’ll have to see if any other interesting ones pop up.
By Jonathan Ping | Investing | 7/20/08, 2:39am