T2 Partners Year-End Letter: Discussing Longs & Shorts ~ market folly

Friday, January 7, 2011

T2 Partners Year-End Letter: Discussing Longs & Shorts

Whitney Tilson and Glenn Tongue's hedge fund firm T2 Partners released their year-end letter to investors. The letter is one of the most thorough we've seen as it is 27 pages long and includes assessment of both their long and short positions. If you want transparency in the hedge fund industry, here's your barometer.

For 2010, T2 finished up 10.3% net compared to an S&P 500 return of 15.1%. So while they trailed the indices last year, T2 has outperformed since inception, returning 9.1% annualized net versus 2.0% for the S&P. This past year, their pain came from various short positions and essentially 'missing' the quantitative easing round 2 rally.

T2 Partners' top 12 long positions at the end of 2010 were:

1. Grupo Prisa (PRIS & PRIS.B)
2. Microsoft (MSFT) ~ see their thoughts on MSFT here
3. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A/B)
4. BP (BP) ~ their thoughts on BP here
5. General Growth Properties (GGP)
6. CIT Group (CIT)
7. Kraft (KFT) and warrants
8. Seagate Technology (STX)
9. Iridium (IRDM) and warrants
10. Automatic Data Processing (ADP) ~ see their presentation on ADP
11. Resource America (REXI)
12. Anheuser Busch InBev (BUD)

While we've presented analysis on T2's longs before, we want to single out Seagate Technology (STX) and CIT Group (CIT) as we haven't seen Tilson talk about these before. He likes STX mainly because it is trading at an absurdly cheap valuation and he thinks fears over the hard drive (HDD) market (versus the solid state drive market) are overblown.

Tilson and Tongue fancy CIT due to the company's potential to capture financing-cost savings. Additionally Tilson writes, "Even more intriguing is the possibility that a healthy bank might acquire CIT, attracted by the enormous earnings leverage available in applying the acquiring bank's much lower borrowing costs to CIT's business model."

T2's top 10 short positions (in alphabetical order):

1. AIG (AIG)
2. Homebuilders (various individual companies plus XHB the ETF)
3. InterOil (IOC) ~ analysis of their short position here
4. ITT Educational (ESI), as well as other for-profit education plays
5. Lender Processing Services (LPS)
6. Lululemon Athletica (LULU)
8. Netflix (NFLX)
9. Salesforce.com (CRM)
10. St. Joe (JOE)

Tilson and Tongue highlight that their short book caused them much pain last year. Accordingly, they set aside a portion of their letter to address how they manage short positions that move against them. In short (no pun intended), they re-evaluate their analysis to determine whether to add to the position, do nothing, or trim/exit.

Specifically, they trimmed their position in Netflix (NFLX) and replaced part of it with put positions. (We posted why Tilson is short Netflix here). They've also done this with other short positions in order to better manage risk. After all, remember that these stakes are merely hedges to their long book as T2 is always net long (they are currently 40% net long).

Embedded below is T2 Partners annual letter to investors for 2010:

You can download a .pdf copy here.

It's great to see a manager with such transparency in an otherwise secretive and guarded industry. T2's portfolio overlaps with positions many other hedge fund managers own that we've highlighted as well.

T2 is short JOE and so is Greenlight Capital (see David Einhorn's short thesis on JOE). While T2 is short ESI, hedge fund Blum Capital is long ESI. And while Tilson and Tongue are short AIG, Bruce Berkowitz's Fairholme Capital is long AIG. It's fun to see hedge funds take different stances on various stocks because that's what makes a market.

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