2 surprising FTSE shares being targeted by shorters

Paul Summers takes a closer look at two previously popular FTSE shares that are now seeing more interest from short-sellers.

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Some FTSE stocks attract short-sellers like bees to honey. Think battered cinema operator Cineworld or troubled white goods seller AO World. That said, there are other companies where this kind of attention is arguably more surprising. Let’s look at a couple of examples and see whether there’s a buying opportunity for me. 

Is the purple patch over?

It’s interesting to see Kingfisher (LSE: KGF) so high up the table of most hated stocks. Thanks to the explosion in the popularity of DIY over the pandemic and a very healthy housing market, investors might assume that short-sellers would have no interest in the B&Q and Screwfix owner. Then again, recent share price activity suggests otherwise.

Kingfisher certainly hasn’t had the best of starts to 2022. In sharp contrast to index peers like BT and BP, the valuation here has fallen 10% year-to-date. That’s not nearly as bad as the drops seen in tech companies, but it still implies that some in the market think the FTSE 100 member’s purple patch might be over.

Given the above, it’s clear that next month’s full-year results will receive a lot of attention. Back in November, Kingfisher’s share price wobbled after the company revealed like-for-like sales of £3.2bn in Q3 were down 2.4% compared to the same period in 2020.

Is this indicative of more people spending money on other things they couldn’t do previously? Or is it simply a natural fluctuation in earnings that all companies experience? We’ll find out soon enough.

In the meantime, Kingfisher’s stock was trading on a P/E of 11 as markets opened. It also comes with a 3.7% yield. That looks pretty reasonable to me. As things stand however, I’m content to sit on the sidelines and wait to see just how tricky the last quarter has been. 

Shorting target

Another FTSE share that makes the ‘most hated’ Top 10 list is Domino’s Pizza (LSE: DOM). Again, this seems a bit surprising.

Back in December, the company announced it had reached a resolution to a long-running feud with its franchisees. As part of the deal, Domino’s will invest £20m over three years in stores and online apps. Marketing will also be stepped up.

In return, franchisees are expected to open a minimum of 45 stores per annum in the next three years, test and roll out new tech, and get involved in national promotions.

As might be expected, this news sent the shares sharply higher. Unfortunately, a good proportion of these gains have since been lost. Shares have fallen back 16% year-to-date.

But maybe this selling pressure (and shorter interest) does make sense. Like Kingfisher, the trading tailwind from multiple UK lockdowns is now over. The sharp rise in the cost of living could also be relevant. When times are tough, it seems likely that more of us will shun a takeaway in favour of a cheaper, shop-bought alternative. 

As a side note, Domino’s net debt has climbed significantly in recent years. I’d prefer it to be going in the other direction.

But companies with franchise business models often prove to be great wealth-compounders over the long term. Domino remains a highly-cash-generative business and P/E of 19 is also roughly in line with the company’s average P/E over the last five years.

Domino’s has now been added to my watchlist. I wonder if this attention from short-sellers might prove short-lived.

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be assessed. Consider taking independent financial advice.

Paul Summers has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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