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Oct 4, 2017

Shopify falls after short-seller Andrew Left releases critical video

Short-seller Citron Research takes aim at Shopify's sales tactics

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Shares of Shopify fell sharply Wednesday after high-profile short-seller Andrew Left of Citron Research posted a critical video and report on the company, accusing it of promoting a “get rich quick scheme” and comparing it to Herbalife.

In the video, Left called on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate Shopify’s business practices.

“What we see Shopify doing is selling business opportunities. Now, some of their merchants actually have physical stores; but the majority of them are just using some dropship method and buying an opportunity to make money,” he said.

Left said he believes the company to be worth half its current market cap, or US$55 per share, even without FTC intervention. His comparison to Herbalife stems from a US$200-million settlement in 2015 with the FTC tied to the company’s sales practices.

Left’s analysis fell flat with at least one member of the analyst community. In an interview on BNN, D.A. Davidson’s Tom Forte, who is among the most bearish analysts on Shopify with the equivalent to a “hold” rating and a $115 target price, said he disagreed with Left’s assessment of the firm.

“This is an obviously negatively skewed view on Shopify, and an inappropriate one,” he said. “Ultimately, Shopify at its core is a software company that enables not only small to medium enterprises to create websites and sell products on the internet, but also large scale enterprises.”

Shopify has been among the top performers on the TSX, rising nearly 800 per cent from its initial public offering price of $17 per share in 2015.

Shopify declined to comment on the report.