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投资理财

并购传闻如何不胫而走

Jen Wieczner 2014年08月29日

股市从来不缺收购传闻。有时候,这些传闻犹如瘟疫一般在市场上到处传播,最终成为一个自我实现的预言,它对股价的影响就好像相关公告刚刚发布一样。一些人能够敏锐地利用这些传闻,斩获不菲收益,但也有很多人深受其害。

“传染”系列文章:

【传染之一】比SARS更致命:蝙蝠病毒MERS是如何成为人类杀手的

【传染之二】“自拍”何以变成社会流行病

【传染之三】市场抛盘是怎样发生的?

【传染之四】并购传闻如何不胫而走

【传染之五】从贾斯汀•比伯到数据学家,Twitter何以成为一门显学

    利•德罗根对自己首次听说以色列互联网安全公司Radware将被收购时的情形记忆犹新。

    当时,德罗根正管理着一只动力股对冲基金,而且一直在观察在美国上市的Radware。他回忆道:“我掌握的所有情况都表明我应该持有这只股票,只是当时我还没有动手。”随后,德罗根关注的一位颇有声望的交易员在Twitter上罗列了一大堆自己对这只股票的看法,而且预计Radware的股价将上涨。这位交易员的结论是,Radware一定是别人的收购目标。德罗根说:“就是这句话让我从观望变为行动。”随后,德罗根开始迅速吸纳Radware的股票。

    收购传闻在一周内传遍了华尔街。分析师都把Radware列为有吸引力的个股。一家以色列报纸还引述未具名消息人士的话说,IBM和惠普(Hewlett-Packard)提出以近10亿美元的价格收购Radware,而后者正在考虑此事。美国各家网站和新闻媒体纷纷转载这篇报道,Radware的股价也因此大涨特涨。德罗根说:“当时这看来是真的。”

    这次收购一直没有付诸实施。但对德罗根来说,这没有关系——尘埃落定时他早已抽身离去,而且获利不菲。他说:“如果你手里的某只股票因为传闻在一天内上涨了40%,那就要把它卖掉。对唾手而得的收获不能要求太多。”

    从这个典型事例中可以看出传闻对市场的影响力。它也表明,在别人收到风声前对恰当的传闻加以利用可能得到怎样的回报。借此类炒作赚钱的机会往往让人很难抗拒,就连职业投资者也是如此,尽管他们,包括《财富》(Fortune)杂志撰写本文时采访的所有证券投资经理,发誓说自己绝不会把传闻这种如此不靠谱的东西作为交易依据。毕竟,他们的工作就是关注所有可能影响股票的东西。而和大多数其他因素相比,并购,甚至是并购传闻,能让股价出现更大的起伏。

    有时候,并购传闻犹如瘟疫一般在市场上到处传播,最终成为一个自我实现的预言,它对股价的影响就好像相关公告刚刚发布一样。

    在《财富》杂志以传染为主题的系列文章中,我和同事们将对这个现象进行探究。这个题目既会覆盖典型(而且致命)的“传染性冠状病毒”,也会囊括象征意味更浓的“病毒性症状”,比如股市出现抛售潮,大卖特卖的最畅销书籍,乃至“自拍”的流行。

    并购传闻的传播效果很明显,但对许多市场专家来说,这背后的机制仍然完全是个谜。我们知道,和股票有关的传闻差不多就是交易员日常生活的一部分。但只有一部分传闻引起交易员的广泛关注,其中甚至包括一些看起来根本没有什么依据的传闻,为什么会出现这样的情况还远远没有解释清楚。

    股票研究和交易机构Summer Street Research Partners医药科技股分析师马克•兰迪研究了大量并购传闻。他指出:“传闻当然会影响市场。有人在市场上投资,有人在市场上投机——老实说,有时候投机的那部分人给投资的人带来了机会。”兰迪还提醒我们:“投资领域甚至有句老话,出现传闻时买入,传闻兑现时卖出。”

    Leigh Drogen remembers exactly how he first heard that Radware was going to be acquired.

    At the time, Drogen was running a hedge fund of momentum stocks, and he’d been watching Radware, an Israel-based Internet security firm listed in the U.S. “Everything lined up for me that I should be owning this company, but I hadn’t pulled the trigger yet,” he remembers. Then on Twitter, a respected trader Drogen follows tweeted that a slew of options trades on Radware stock—bets that its shares would rise—had just been made. The trader’s conclusion: The company was definitely a takeover target. “That was the thing that put me over the edge,” says Drogen, who quickly loaded up on Radware shares.

    Within a week, Wall Street was abuzz with acquisition rumors: Analysts had labeled Radware an attractive target, and an Israeli newspaper, citing anonymous sources, reported that the company was considering a nearly $1 billion offer from IBM or Hewlett-Packard . The story was picked up by American blogs and news outlets, sending Radware’s stock through the roof. “It seemed real,” Drogen recalls.

    The deal never materialized, but that didn’t matter to Drogen, who was already long gone by the time the dust settled—taking a handsome profit with him. “If one of your stocks goes up 40% in one day on a rumor, you get rid of it,” he says. “You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

    It’s a classic example of the power that gossip wields in the market—and the potential rewards for those who play the right rumor before everybody else catches wind of it. The chance to capitalize on such speculation is hard to resist, even for professional investors who swear that they would never trade on anything so flimsy as a rumor (including every portfolio manager Fortune interviewed for this story). It’s their job, after all, to look out for anything that could impact a stock—and mergers and acquisitions, even rumored ones, can sway stock prices more dramatically than most other events.

    Sometimes, when M&A speculation catches on, it becomes so contagious it spreads to the market itself, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy—moving prices as though a deal had just been announced.

    In a new Fortune series on Contagion, my colleagues and I set out to explore this phenomenon—from the classically (and fatally) contagious MERS-coV virus (here and here) to more figuratively viral manifestations like stock market selloffs, runaway bestsellers and even the advent of “the selfie.”

    With M&A rumors, the contagion effect is obvious, but the mechanics behind it are a complete mystery to many market experts. We know that stock-related rumors are an almost daily part of the trading life. Much less clear is why certain bits of gossip—including some that seem to have little substance at all—catch a wave of trader attention.

    “Certainly, rumors move the market,” says Mark Landy, a medical technology stock analyst with Summer Street Research Partners, who has vetted his fair share of M&A gossip. “You have people who invest in the market and people who gamble in the market—and honestly sometimes, the gambling portion of the investment community gives the investment part an opportunity.” There’s even an old investing saying, Landy reminds us: “You buy the rumor and you sell the news.”

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