- Jason Mudrick, the founder and chief investment officer of Mudrick Capital Management, has placed a massive bet on the vaping and e-cigarette space.
- The high-profile investor’s flagship fund has invested nearly $US800 million – close to 30% of the firm’s total assets – in e-cigarette maker NJOY Holdings, according to a report from Bloomberg.
- The investment has powered most of the fund’s 30% return this year, Bloomberg found. But Mudrick’s prized stake in the e-cigarette maker could be in jeopardy as the future of the industry is being called into question by regulators.
- Policymakers and regulators alike are warning an underage-vaping epidemic could be spreading as vaping-related lung diseases have killed eight people across the US and affected more than 500 others.
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As regulatory pressure ramps up against vaping and e-cigarettes, a top hedge fund’s $US800 million bet on the space could be in trouble.
Mudrick Capital Management – a hedge fund founded by high-profile investor Jason Mudrick that manages about $US2.8 billion – has close to 30% of its total assets invested in e-cigarette maker NJOY Holdings, according to a report from Bloomberg.
The firm’s $US800 million stake in NJOY has fuelled most of its flagship fund’s 30% return this year, Bloomberg found. Mudrick’s flagship fund invests in distressed companies on the verge of or recovering from bankruptcy.
The fund purchased a 51% stake in NJOY back in 2017 when the company was worth $US40 million and fresh out of bankruptcy, according to Bloomberg. The size of the stake has dropped to about 40% after Mudrick sold some shares to earn back its initial investment.
Mudrick’s stake in NJOY was the sole driver of the its 25% return in the second quarter, and without the investment the fund would have posted a loss for the period, Bloomberg reported.
The fund’s outsize returns this year stand in stark contrast the fund’s competitors in distress investing, according to data compiled by HSBC. The year-to-date average for distressed funds is 5.59%, the bank said in a report.
But Mudrick’s investment could be in jeopardy as the vaping industry comes under greater scrutiny amid a growing number of vaping-related deaths and diseases.
The Trump administration shocked the industry last week after announcing it would work toward removing almost all flavored e-cigarette products from the market. The Food and Drug Administration still needs to approve the effort.
Top Juul investor Altria has lost about $US30 billion in market value since the FDA launched an investigation into a potential link between Juul’s products and users experiencing seizures.
Bloomberg found that the recent scrutiny of vaping threw a wrench in NJOY’s efforts to raise new funding. The company was recently looking to raise new capital at a valuation of as much as $US5 billion, more than double what NJOY was valued at during a funding round in May.
NJOY abandoned the fundraising effort as the regulatory pressure began heating up on the industry, according to the report.
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