Sometimes it can take a while to be proven right. In 2013 Kynikos Associates' Jim Chanos presented his short thesis for Seagate Technologies (STX). The stock went the other way for over two years but has come crashing down in recent months after the company cut its guidance and released disappointing earnings last week.
As for what Chanos will present at Wednesday's Sohn Investment Conference in New York, it is anybody's guess as his interests are broad. In recent interviews, the short-seller has tackled energy and China.
The long portion of his portfolio includes holdings in Altria Group (MO), Apple (AAPL), Lockheed Martin (LMT) and several others. But it may not be wise to pay too much attention to the short-seller's longs as some are held just to hedge shorts. For example, Chanos has a long position in JD.com (JD), which is used to hedge his short on Alibaba (BABA). In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Chanos said he tends to maintain 80 positions globally.
In the Financial Times profile, Chanos explained the reason for his skepticism about China's growth story. He explained that around 2009, one of his analysts told him about 5.6 billion square meters of high rises that were under construction in China. Chanos initially assumed that the analyst misspoke -- or did his metric conversion math wrong -- and meant to say 5.6 billion square feet. (5.6 billion square meters is approximately 60 billion square feet, or 25 square feet per person in China.)
The alarming rate of construction, which was growing at an exponential rate from 2001 to 2012, produced what Chanos calls a "leveraged bubble." He has shied away from placing bets on companies inside of China because understanding the rationale of the Chinese retail investor is like trying to understand "pigs on LSD." Chanos added, "There's no correlation to the economy, and who knows which way the Chinese retail investor's going to go, what side of the bed they're going to wake up on any given week, month or year."
Chanos recently spoke of his shorts in the energy sector -- both renewable and oil and gas. In a December interview with CNBC, Chanos said SolarCity (SCTY) was in trouble because it is a financing company and not a traditional renewable energy company. (By that he was making a comment about SolarCity going straight to the residential market, because the company would face more credit risk.) In the same interview, Chanos also said that he was short most leveraged U.S. oil and gas companies.
At conferences, Chanos often announces new short ideas but it is possible that he will give a broader market view.
The Sohn Investment Conference, which will be held in New York on May 4, 2016, brings together some of the top minds in the financial world for a day of sharing investment ideas. It is held in honor of Ira Sohn, a Wall Street professional who lost his battle with cancer when he was 29. Proceeds from the New York conference, as well as other conferences the Sohn Conference Foundations holds, are dedicated to the treatment and cure of pediatric cancer and other childhood diseases. The foundation has so far raised more than $65 million.