Fortescue shares drop as $1.1 billion stake hits the market

A major investor is pulling the pin on Fortescue shares, sending the share price lower.

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The Fortescue Ltd (ASX: FMG) share price is being pulverised today amid news of a mega sale.

Shares in the Australian iron ore miner are down 4.6% to $21.93 as we approach the midpoint of today's session. Meanwhile, the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) is putting the pedal to the metal, bounding 0.66% higher to 7,751.4 points.

The crimson-red performance of the Fortescue share price isn't doing the materials sector any favours. Unlike the rest of the market, ASX materials are negative today, led by the bleeding out of optimism from the ASX iron ore giant.

Who's behind the sale?

According to reports, $1.1 billion worth of Fortescue shares are up for sale.

The jumbo-sized sale equates to approximately 1.6% of Andrew Forrest's Pilbara wealth pit's market capitalisation. And if today's trading data is anything to go on, the hefty stake has likely already found a buyer.

An average day would see roughly 5 million Fortescue shares trade hands. Today's trading activity blows that figure right out of the water, surpassing 58 million shares traded before midday. But, who is the seller behind this outrageously large exit?

It turns out it is cloaked in mystery.

The seller is reportedly an institutional investor. Furthermore, the sale is said to be the last in a complete exit by a large fund manager. Given the position did not meet the conditions of a 'substantial shareholding' (more than 5% stake), there probably won't be an accompanying change in holding notice.

A quick look at the company's last ownership details only shows two holdings around this size… a $1.1 billion stake held by the founder, Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest, himself, and a $1.4 billion position held by BlackRock Inc. — the United States asset manager.

However, the truth is that it is merely speculation as to who made the sale.

The shares were offered at $21.60, a 6% discount on the previous trading price.

Why sell Fortescue shares now?

There are many reasons why someone might choose to sell, many of which can be completely unrelated to the company itself.

However, we know the Fortescue share price is down 25% in 2024, as shown above. We're also heading towards the end of the financial year. This time of year is renowned for tax-loss harvesting, which reduces the amount of capital gains tax due.

On the other hand, Fortescue is facing a couple of challenges. Last week, the company was hit with yet another executive resignation. After 11 years at Fortescue, Julie Shuttleworth, head of global growth, waved goodbye to the iron ore miner.

Secondly, the entire industry is dealing with a significant retraction in the price of the steelmaking commodity this year. In the first week of 2024, iron ore fetched over US$140 per tonne. Now, it is going for around US$107.

Motley Fool contributor Mitchell Lawler has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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