After a Brutal 2015, Greenlight Starts Off 2016 with a Bang

David Einhorn saw his firm take a 20 percent loss last year. But a handful of shorts — Athenahealth, Netflix, Pioneer Natural Resources and Tesla — delivered big in January.

David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital has gotten off to a good start this year, particularly given a dreadful 2015.

The New York hedge fund firm posted a 1.4 percent gain in January after losing 20.2 percent last year.

This compares with a 5 percent decline for the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index for January after the index was down as much as 11 percent during the month.

Einhorn entered the year positioned defensively. The firm was 90 percent long and 76 percent short, for a net long exposure of just 14 percent.

Many of its shorts delivered big-time.

Tesla Motors and Netflix were each down more than 20 percent for the month, while fell 13 percent, more than half of it generated on Friday alone, after reporting disappointing earnings for the recent quarter.

Athenahealth, meanwhile, fell about 12 percent, while Pioneer Natural Resources Co., which will forever be known as the “mother fracker” stock, was off 1.1 percent for the month.

On the long side, Greenlight also did well with a couple of new positions it highlighted in its fourth-quarter letter.

Retail giant Macy’s, a target of a couple of activists, was up 15.5 percent, while E.ON, one of Europe’s largest utilities, surged 11.5 percent for the month.

Generic drugmaker Mylan, another new position, was down but by only 2.6 percent.

Two of Greenlight’s five largest disclosed long positions entering the New Year also fared well.

Greenlight’s longtime bet on gold, which rose about 3.5 percent, finally began to pay off.

Greenlight’s position in Time Warner, a new member of the firm’s top five group, rose 9 percent for the month.

On the other hand, two stocks that have been among its largest holdings for some time lost money last month. Apple was down 7.8 percent, while General Motors Co. fell 13 percent.

As if to underscore how things may finally be turning for Einhorn, Consol Energy, the coal and natural gas company that was one of his big losers last year, was unchanged after surging more than 17 percent on Friday.

Alas, one big loser Einhorn still can’t seem to escape: SunEdison. The stock was down 38 percent for January. Yikes! A few days ago the renewable energy company announced that its board of directors appointed former Greenlight partner Claire Gogel as an independent director.

Looking out to the new month, Greenlight is taking on a bit more risk. It is now 96 percent long and 70 percent short, or 26 percent net long, nearly double the prior month but not exactly rolling the dice.

As for its top disclosed longs, Apple, GM, gold and Time Warner remain, but now Michael Kors Holdings, the women’s apparel maker, replaces Consol. It is not known at this point whether Greenlight still owns a position in Consol.

Perhaps the omission of Consol and the January performance are a good omen for the year.