Soros Scores With Short Bet on Ticket Broker in U.K. Rail Revamp
(Bloomberg) -- George Soros, whose wager against the British pound in 1992 netted him a $1 billion windfall, has found another profitable, albeit smaller, short bet in the U.K.
The British arm of the 90-year-old investor’s Soros Fund Management held a 0.7% short interest in Trainline Plc as of March 25, according to U.K. regulatory filings.
The online ticket broker lost more than 20% of its value on Thursday after the U.K. said it would roll out an app as part of its rail-system overhaul that would compete with Trainline’s. The London-based company’s shares sank as much as 33% before recovering some of their losses.
The ticketing changes are part of a rail-network overhaul meant to simplify, digitize and centralize the world’s oldest rail system. Along with flexible pricing plans, a new public body called Great British Railways to better integrate the fragmented train network.
Some investors “might see this as competitor to Trainline,” said Berenberg analyst Owen Shirley, referring to the government-backed app. While train companies already had their own websites, “it’s arguable that a one-stop shop makes it a slightly more credible competitor.”
Shirley also said that there could be concerns over whether the new plans would mean changes to the commission that Trainline earns on tickets, which is “far and away the biggest factor” weighing on the stock.
The rail overhaul has been in the works for some months prior to announcement of the details late Wednesday. At the time of its disclosure, SFM UK Management LLP’s short holding had a value of about $15.3 million.
A U.S.-based spokesman for Soros Fund Management declined to comment. The company manages $27 billion, almost all of it belonging to Soros’s Open Society Foundations.
Citadel Europe LLP and Paloma Partners Management Co. are among the funds that also had declared short positions in Trainline.
Shares of Trainline sank the most since the company went public in June 2019. They were down 23% as of 3:44 p.m. in London, reflecting a 473 million-pound ($670 million) drop in market value.
In a statement on Thursday, Trainline said it was supportive of the plan for Britain’s railways, and that the recommendations were “broadly in line” with the company’s expectations.
Chief Executive Efficer Jody Ford said the introduction of flexi tickets and digital season tickets “will provide new growth opportunities,” adding that Trainline’s app was “a huge differentiator and difficult to replicate.”
Speaking in Parliament, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the new plan will not expose commuters to new fare hikes.
“The announcement today doesn’t change how fares have been capped up until now,” Shapps said. “All of those regimes will remain in place.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.