Activist short seller explains bet against Church & Dwight as due to ‘extreme overvaluation’

Investing

An activist investor with a penchant for bold calls about companies losing value spoke to CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday about his latest position, which bets that household products company Church & Dwight will lose half its value.

Spruce Point Capital founder Ben Axler published a report last week expressing “significant concerns” about Church & Dwight. He says the company is in a state of “extreme overvaluation,” citing concerns with its acquisitions, corporate management and company insiders selling stock in recent weeks.

“Of the 19 analysts that cover the stock, only four are a buy – and it’s trading above the average analyst price target,” Axler told CNBC. “We could see this stock down 50%.”

Spruce Point is an activist investment fund that short sells stock of companies that it believes are trading at higher values than they should. Short selling is a means of betting that a company’s stock will fall.

Shares of Church & Dwight have slid over 8% since Spruce Point released its report, trading as low as $72.84 a share on Monday. The company issued a statement to CNBC, denouncing Axler’s report.

“We have confidence in our long-term plan to deliver superior returns based on our ‘evergreen business model,’ and our strong second-quarter results demonstrate our continued momentum. This report contains a number of false and misleading statements and is simply an attempt by a short-seller to negatively impact Church & Dwight’s share price for its own benefit,” Church & Dwight said.

Axler acknowledged the company’s response to CNBC and countered that Church & Dwight can call them if the company wants to identify and explain what those “false and misleading statements” are.

“We’re happy to correct [any issues in our report] if they can prove us wrong,” Axler said.

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