AMC Entertainment shares dropped 30% after markets opened Thursday following a stock sale announcement, halting a massive rally led by retail traders.
The stock was 30.6% lower at $43.41 by 9:49 a.m. ET. The NYSE halted the stock for volatility shortly after the open. Shares had soared more than 20% in premarket trading before the announcement.
AMC said in a regulatory filing that it may offer and sell from time to time up to an aggregate of 11.55 million shares of its Class A common stock. Additional shares dilute the value of the existing stock for existing shareholders.
The move comes after AMC soared 95% in the regular trading session Wednesday to close at an all-time high of $62.55. Its previous closing record of $35.86 was reached in 2015, according to FactSet data.
AMC’s stock spiked as it hit an intraday high of $72.62, well above its previous intraday record of $36.72.
Trading was halted several times Wednesday as shares were up more than 100% at one point. At the end of the day, more than 710 million shares exchanged hands. That’s nearly double the number of AMC’s shares outstanding. The company’s 30-day average volume is just 143 million shares.
Retail investors — many active on Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum — led the AMC rally, and AMC executives have taken note. On Wednesday, the company announced a new portal to connect with individual investors and offered free popcorn, exclusive screenings and other perks to those who hold its stock.
JPMorgan noted that in the last week, retail order flow into AMC jumped to $583 million, 6.9 standard deviations above the average level of the last one year. According to their quantitative strategy, this kind of imbalance can lead to more outperformance by the stock in coming weeks.
AMC shares are up 2850% so far this year, bringing its market capitalization to more than $31 billion. That makes it worth more than stocks like Delta Air Lines, State Street and Best Buy.
In a similar occurrence seen in January with the meme stocks like GameStop, defiant short-sellers have increased their bets against AMC shares over the last month, possibly fueling the move higher. About 18% of the AMC shares available for trading are still sold short through Wednesday, according to S3 Partners.
On Wednesday, short-sellers lost $2.8 billion as the stock surged, according to S3. That brings their year-to-date losses to more than $5 billion, according to S3.
Short sellers like hedge funds borrow the stock from an investment bank and sell it in the hopes of buying it back at a lower price and returning the shares, pocketing the difference. However, when a stock surges higher, a so-called short squeeze can occur where investors are forced to buy back the stock to cut their losses.
Wednesday’s wild trading activity comes even after an investment firm reportedly sold off its stake in the company. On Tuesday, AMC revealed it sold 8.5 million newly issued shares to Mudrick Capital, the latest in a series of capital raises for the stock. The hedge fund later sold all of its AMC stock for a profit that same day, according to Bloomberg News.
Most Wall Street analysts believe AMC shares will plummet eventually. The average 12-month target price of analysts is $5.11, according to FactSet.
— CNBC’s Sarah Whitten, Yun Li and Michael Bloom contributed to this report.
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