Trading Trump: Truth Social's first month of trading has sent investors on a ride

With Donald Trump facing dozens of federal criminal charges and hundreds of millions in legal expenses, Trump Media & Technology Group Corp. went public on the Nasdaq exchange March 26

Martha Mendoza
Friday 26 April 2024 05:04 BST

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

There have been lawsuits, short-selling and rampant speculation. Now, as Trump Media & Technology Group approaches its first month as a publicly traded company, it’s clear that — like the man it’s named after — there’s nothing typical about the stock.

“If I woke up tomorrow and shares were zero dollars, or $100, I would not be surprised,” said Matthew Tuttle, a professional investor who bought $800 in Trump Media stock last week when it was at an all-time low. A day later, it had spiked in value.

“This is not going to move on fundamentals, earnings, or anything I was taught in business school about how a stock is supposed to move," he said.

With Trump facing dozens of federal felony charges and hundreds of millions in legal expenses, Trump Media went public on March 26 on the Nasdaq exchange. Unlike many other stocks, it has been hard for traditional analysts and investors to figure out where it’s heading.

Here are some key takeaways from experts and regulator filings that help explain why Trump Media's stock — ticker symbol DJT — has gone up and down, and why its performance continues to confound Wall Street expectations:

TRUMP MEDIA IS TRUMP

The stock's volatility, experts say, is tied to Trump Media's prime asset: Trump himself. Trump Media runs the social media platform Truth Social, which Trump created after he was banned from Twitter and Facebook following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. The former Republican president, who is his party's presumptive nominee for the White House this year, is a prolific poster to Truth Social and has a legion of diehard supporters.

“I LOVE TRUTH SOCIAL, I LOVE THE TRUTH!” Trump posted the day his company went public.

Most large investors have balked at buying the company's stock. Based in Sarasota, Florida, Trump Media has been losing loads of money and struggling to raise revenue, according to regulatory filings. That doesn't appear to have dissuaded Trump's supporters from embracing a chance to invest in a piece of him.

“It’s everything out of the ordinary,” said Julian Klymochko, CEO of Calgary-based Accelerate Financial Technologies Inc.

“I call it the mother of all meme stocks,” he said, using a phrase oft-repeated about Trump Media. It’s the nickname given to stocks that get caught up in buzz online and shoot way beyond what traditional analysis says they’re worth.

RETAIL INVESTORS LEAD THE WAY

Day 1 looked like a windfall for Trump, who controls about 65% of the stock, and other early investors: Shares surged 59% to $79.38. Trump’s wealth immediately grew to $8 billion on paper. But he couldn’t cash out because of a “lock-up” provision that generally prevents company insiders from selling newly issued shares for six months.

The stock started to trend down, but not without near-daily rises and falls on heavy trading volume. The trading has largely been driven by individual investors whom Trump Media's CEO Devin Nunes described as believing “in our mission to create a free-speech beachhead against Big Tech.”

Such retail investors are typically less sophisticated day traders. Some banded together to become a powerful force during COVID-19 lockdowns when they mobilized online to pour money into stocks of struggling companies such as video game retailer GameStop and movie theater operator AMC Entertainment. Those investors drove the companies' stock to new heights while big investors ate large losses because they had been betting against the stocks.

Recent postings in a Truth Social group dedicated to chatting about the stock have often referred to buying it as not just an investment but a movement of “MAGA patriots putting our money where our mouth is," referring to Trump's "Make America Great Again” movement.

PROSPECTS ARE UNCLEAR

Truth Social launched in 2022, and the former president uses the platform like he often used Twitter, now known as X: to spread misinformation, praise supporters and attack his political rivals.

Trump was reinstated in November 2022 to X, though he has only posted to that site once since then. He has otherwise stuck to Truth Social, which had 18 million visits in the first three months of 2024, compared with 18 billion on X, according to research firm Similarweb.

Trump Media's prospects are unclear, despite optimistic statements from Trump and its executives. Nunes said last week that the company's "financial position is very strong, particularly for a start-up tech firm at this initial stage of growth."

The company, however, lost nearly $58.2 million last year while generating only $4.1 million in revenue, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. The company has $200 million in the bank and no debt.

Trump's retail investors appear to be ignoring the company's fundamentals and placing a bet that the former president will ensure it succeeds, according to analysts and other experts.

They "are thinking he’ll figure something out, he’s always done that,” said John Rekenthaler, vice president of research for Morningstar Research Services. “And it’s true, he always lands on his feet. But the people who invest with him, they don’t always land on their feet.”

Financial advisers and experts are less sanguine about its prospects. They noted that Trump Media's financial filings have provided no indication it has the kind of strategy that will lead to profits. They also pointed out that the company's leadership has little experience running a social media outfit.

The company's executives and board members include Nunes, a former congressman and Trump ally, and one of the former president's sons, Donald Trump Jr. Among the others are Kash Patel, who was a top national security adviser and official in the Trump administration, and Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative under Trump.

It is a recipe for a corporate crash, experts said.

“Sooner or later it’s going to get messy,” said University of Michigan law professor Albert Choi. He said it is most likely that Trump Media will run out of cash and be forced to liquidate or file for bankruptcy.

OTHER RISKS

The company has a unique risk, experts said: Trump is not known for being disciplined, especially on social media. Because he is a controlling shareholder, he could be fined or penalized for making false statements about the company. This happened to Elon Musk, who was charged with securities fraud in 2018 after he hinted he would be taking Twitter private. Musk settled with the SEC for a $40 million fine and was forced to step down as Tesla’s chairman.

SEC filings also warn that Trump is facing legal trouble that could jeopardize the company's stability. A New York judge issued a $454 million civil fraud judgment against Trump after concluding that he and others had deceived banks and insurers by exaggerating their wealth on financial statements.

Trump has appealed the fine and posted a $175 million bond while the case is considered.

Trump, meanwhile, is on trial in New York on charges of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to squelch negative stories about him during his 2016 presidential campaign. He has been indicted twice in federal court — once on charges of trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election and the other on accusations he kept classified documents after leaving the White House. He has also been indicted in Georgia on charges of racketeering and conspiracy with the aim of potential 2020 election interference.

Trump Media has also been targeted in lawsuits. In February, Trump Media co-founders Andy Litinsky and Wes Moss, who met Trump when they were on his reality show “The Apprentice,” sued the company to prevent Trump from diluting their 8.6% stake by increasing authorized shares from 120 million to 1 billion. Trump sued right back, arguing that they should forfeit their stock in the company because they set it up improperly.

This is not the first time Trump has led a publicly traded company. In 1995, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts went public on the New York Stock Exchange under the same ticker symbol of DJT. The company lost money for the next nine years and declared bankruptcy.

___

Associated Press writers Brian Slodysko and Alan Suderman contributed to this report.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in