Michael Burry made a name for himself during the Great Recession. His bearish bet against the housing market made the contrarian investor a fortune. Alongside this fortune came fame, when the book detailing his winning trade was made into a film in 2015.
When Burry makes changes to his portfolio, it makes headlines. That’s exactly what happened earlier this month, when his Scion Asset Management filed its latest 13F with the Securities and Exchange Commission (or SEC). As InvestorPlace’s Eddie Pan reported Aug. 15, the filing revealed that, as of June 30, Scion held just one stock in its portfolio: private-prison operator Geo Group (NYSE:GEO).
Much of the coverage of Burry’s latest portfolio changes has focused on why he bought GEO stock. However, what may also be of great interest is Burry’s motivation for dumping the other names that were in his portfolio as of March 31.
During the preceding quarter, Michael Burry cashed out of eleven other U.S.-listed stocks. Let’s take a look at five of his largest prior holdings, and see why he may have seen it as wise to take the money and run.
Booking Holdings (BKNG)
A large operator of travel reservation websites, Booking Holdings (NASDAQ:BKNG) profited handsomely from the post-pandemic travel boom. This resulted in the stock more than doubling from its early 2020 lows by early 2022.
Yet not too long after hitting a new all-time high last winter, BKNG stock tumbled. Interestingly enough, this is when Michael Burry decided to jump into the stock. So, after only holding it for a few months, why did Michael Burry cash out?
It’s possible Burry dived into Booking Holdings when travel stocks plunged after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the subsequent spike in oil prices. Then, during Q2, after the stock made a partial recovery, Burry decided to take profit, as he grew confident in his thesis that a consumer spending slump will happen later this year.
“Revenge travel” may still be a thing for now, but possibly not for long.
Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY)
Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) may seem like a stock worth holding in today’s market. As a pharmaceutical firm, it’s in a recession-resistant industry.
Not only that, it sports a fairly low valuation (9.7x earnings multiple). This may limit downside risk if a further rise in interest rates puts pressure on stock market valuations.
BMY stock also pays out a 2.9% dividend, with plenty of room to raise this payout. With all of this in mind, it may at first appear odd that Burry sold it last quarter. Then again, maybe not. Burry first bought into it during the last quarter of 2021.
Between December 2021 and June, BMY moved up considerably. It went from around $55 per share, to briefly above $80 per share. Moving up so far, so quickly, the famed investor may have decided that the stock had little left in terms of runway.
Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL)
Like Booking Holdings, Google and YouTube parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG,NASDAQ:GOOGL) is another name Michael Burry made a major holding in Q1, only to remove it entirely from the portfolio during Q2.
However, unlike his BKNG stock trade, instead of possibly booking a trading profit, it’s possible Burry took a loss on his GOOG stock investment. As the tech sell-off continued, shares in this FAANG component have continued to slide to lower prices.
It’s debatable whether inflation, interest rate, and recession uncertainties are now fully priced into Alphabet shares. Burry, though, who recently Tweeted that he “Can’t shake that silly pre-Enron, pre-9/11, pre-WorldCom feeling,” may feel as if tech stocks still have a ways to go before truly bottoming out.
He may have acted on this feeling last quarter by throwing the towel on this big tech stock.
Meta Platforms (META)
If Burry believes Alphabet has more room to drop, it makes perfect sense why Facebook parent Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:META) is also no longer a position in the Scion portfolio. This may also have been another position the fund sold at a loss.
You likely recall how META stock cratered in February. That’s when the social media giant reported weaker-than-expected revenue guidance. It’s also when the market began to lose faith in CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse ambitions. Ever the contrarian, it’s possible Burry began to buy when the market was pounding the “sell” button.
Yet unlike past successful “against the grain” bets, this one failed to pay off. Meta has continued to sink. Its low valuation compared to other FAANG stocks could have made it look appealing, but if Burry’s bearish view on tech plays out, this would-be tech value stock could wind up being a value trap.
Formerly known as Encana, Ovintiv (NYSE:OVV) is an oil and gas exploration and production company. This is yet another stock Michael Burry has been a fair weather fan of. He bought a $16.2 million stake in it during Q1, then sold it all during Q2.
It’s unclear whether Burry bought this before or during oil’s Russia spike last March. It’s also unknown whether it was removed from the Scion portfolio when it topped out at $63.20 per share in early June, or if OVV stock was unloaded at lower prices.
Yet whatever the entry/exit prices, Burry’s motivation for selling Ovintiv may tie into his bearish view on the global economy. If there’s a severe global recession, oil demand will drop. This could outweigh the Russia/Ukraine supply shocks, sending oil back further toward pre-spike prices. In turn, causing energy stocks to give back their 2022 gains.
On the date of publication, Thomas Niel had a long position in GEO. did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.