Short Sellers Circle AirAsia After Stock Hits One-Year High


Short sellers are taking aim at AirAsia Group Bhd. after the stock more than doubled from recent lows.

The carrier, once the pioneer of a low-cost flying revolution in Asia, is now the third-most shorted stock in Malaysia, exchange data show. Top Glove Corp. remains at the top of short sellers’ list, which includes other glove makers such as Kossan Rubber Industries Bhd. and Hartalega Holdings Bhd.

Gap between AirAsia's consensus PT and its market price is widest since 2018

AirAsia shares have rebounded amid bets the worst may be over as global vaccine rollouts boost market hopes for global reopenings. The rally has left the gap between analysts’ 12-month price target for the stock and its current value at the widest in almost three years. Its relative strength index rose to 82 on Monday, a level signaling overbought conditions.

While a revival in travel “will be exponentially rewarded in airline stocks, in the case of AirAsia there might be some concern around balance sheet,” said Nirgunan Tiruchelvam, head of consumer sector equity research at Tellimer. “Within the cohort of airline stocks, it might be looking a bit vulnerable.”

With the airline business taking a hit from the coronavirus pandemic, AirAsia was forced to recast its business. It launched a “super app” last year offering services from travel and shopping to logistics and financial services. The carrier is seeking to introduce a flying-taxi business as soon as next year.

The budget carrier also got a boost with the emergence of a new substantial shareholder. Stanley Choi Chiu Fai, chairman of Hong Kong-listed hotel and casino operator International Entertainment Corp., raised his stake in AirAsia to 8.96% on Feb. 18.

AirAsia was highlighted a month ago in the online community by Bursabets, a Malaysian version of Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum, with the title ‘Any BULLS wanna fly with AirAsia?’ The stock trades at 1.21 ringgit versus the 12-month price target of 55 sen. It has surged 37% so far this year.