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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Edited by Richard H. Thaler: Advances in Behavioral Finance, Volume II - page 12 / 23





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upon inclusion should be particularly large for those stocks with the worst substitute securities, in other words, for those stocks for which the arbi- trage is riskiest. By constructing the best possible substitute portfolio for each included stock, they are able to test this, and find strong support. Their analysis also shows just how hard it is to find good substitute securi- ties for individual stocks. For most regressions of included stock returns on the returns of the best substitute securities, the R2 is below 25 percent.

2.3.3. internet carve-outs

In March 2000, 3Com sold 5 percent of its wholly owned subsidiary Palm Inc. in an initial public offering, retaining ownership of the remaining 95 percent. After the IPO, a shareholder of 3Com indirectly owned 1.5 shares of Palm. 3Com also announced its intention to spin-off the remain- der of Palm within nine months, at which time they would give each 3Com shareholder 1.5 shares of Palm.

At the close of trading on the first day after the IPO, Palm shares stood at $95, putting a lower bound on the value of 3Com at $142. In fact, 3Com’s price was $81, implying a market valuation of 3Com’s substantial busi- nesses outside of Palm of about $60 per share!

This situation surely represents a severe mispricing, and it persisted for several weeks. To exploit it, an arbitrageur could buy one share of 3Com, short 1.5 shares of Palm, and wait for the spin-off, thus earning certain profits at no cost. This strategy entails no fundamental risk and no noise trader risk. Why, then, is arbitrage limited? Lamont and Thaler (2003), who analyze this case in detail, argue that implementation costs played a major role. Many investors who tried to borrow Palm shares to short were either told by their broker that no shares were available, or else were quoted a very high borrowing price. This barrier to shorting was not a legal one, but one that arose endogenously in the marketplace: such was the de- mand for shorting Palm, that the supply of Palm shorts was unable to meet it. Arbitrage was therefore limited, and the mispricing persisted.7

Some financial economists react to these examples by arguing that they are simply isolated instances with little broad relevance.8 We think this is an overly complacent view. The “twin shares” example illustrates that in situ- ations where arbitrageurs face only one type of risk—noise trader risk— securities can become mispriced by almost 35 percent. This suggests that if a typical stock trading on the NYSE or NASDAQ becomes subject to in- vestor sentiment, the mispricing could be an order of magnitude larger. Not

See also Mitchell, Pulvino, and Stafford (2002) and Ofek and Richardson (2003) for fur- ther discussion of such “negative stub” situations, in which the market value of a company is less than the sum of its publicly traded parts. 7

During a discussion of these issues at a University of Chicago seminar, one economist ar- gued that these examples are “the tip of the iceberg,” to which another retorted that “they are the iceberg.” 8

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