May 14, 2021

Breakingviews: Hertz Robinhood squad is right for wrong reasons

by Breakingviews.

Wall Street’s professionals are always likely to look down on amateurs. That’s even true when the retail-investing crowd gets something right, if it’s for the wrong reasons. So it is with car-rental outfit Hertz Global. Traders using Robinhood Markets went head-to-head with billionaire investors over Hertz’s bankruptcy. Their enthusiasm kept the stock price alive even as shareholders seemed likely to get essentially nothing once creditors had taken their due. They turned out to be right, this time, but they were lucky.

The car-rental firm filed for Chapter 11 protection last May with some $19 billion in debt. At the time and for the year that followed, Hertz shares retained value, topping $5 a share last June. On Thursday, after the final flurries of an auction, a bankruptcy-exit plan was finally revealed in which incoming investors Knighthead Capital Management and Certares Management will pay many creditors off in full and hand more than $1.1 billion of value to existing shareholders, according to the plan, equivalent to more than $7 per share.

That’s a hefty recovery compared to the touted $6.9 billion enterprise value for the revamped Hertz as a whole. It is a wildly unusual outcome for a bankruptcy, and there was no telling in May last year or until very recently – at least based on fundamental analysis – it would turn out this way.

Robinhood traders take their share of shots from the pros. But with the help of social media, if enough of them believe in a stock, whether Hertz or more famously brick-and-mortar video-game retailer GameStop, they can push the shares up despite the pessimism of Wall Street’s number-crunching experts. If the bank account is growing, luck versus skill has little meaning. Even so, given how bankruptcies usually turn out, disappointment is more likely next time.



Reuters Breakingviews is the world’s leading source of agenda-setting financial insight. As the Reuters brand for financial commentary, we dissect the big business and economic stories as they break around the world every day. A global team of about 30 correspondents in New York, London, Hong Kong and other major cities provides expert analysis in real time.

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