Hedge Fund News Update ~ market folly

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hedge Fund News Update

This is the latest edition in a new series of posts we're doing here at Market Folly entitled, 'hedge fund news summaries.' And, as as the title obviously states, the goal is to give you the quick hits of everything that is happening in hedge fund land. So far, reader response has been very positive and we thank you for the feedback. As such, we will continue posting them since many have found them useful. You can check out our most recent hedge fund news summary to catch up to speed as well.

Seth Klarman (Baupost Group) - The value master himself has recently been "up to no good." And, by that, we simply mean he has been active making investments. Intriguingly enough, Klarman's latest target has been CIT Group (CIT). Before you avid Klarman-ites become appalled and outraged at this move, settle down... this is a pretty good deal for him. (Obviously, right? Why else would he do it?) Klarman's hedge fund Baupost Group was part of the assembly of funds that provided financing for CIT. Baupost joined Centerbridge Partners, Oaktree Capital Management, Pacific Investment Management, and Silver Point Capital, among others. The reason this deal was so enticing to Klarman and others is that the deal was heavily over-collateralized. Supposedly, the loan is backed by $30 billion worth of assets. Additionally, Klarman and the others will be receiving an enticing interest rate of Libor + 10 points with a 3% floor. Later, it was also revealed that this group of lenders also received an upfront 5% fee. So, what's not to love about that deal? CIT was desparate for help, and they got it. We ponder if this is another situation where a prominent investor gives his 'stamp of approval' to a company in return for a great return on capital. While we think this specific situation is more-so due to CIT's dire situation, we're sure they don't mind being associated with Klarman & Baupost. In other recent Baupost news, we saw that they sold completely out of their Omnova (OMN) position. You can check out the rest of Baupost's portfolio here.

Pav Sethi (Gladius Investment Group) - Pav formerly worked as the head of volatility arbitrage at Citadel Investment Group and will be starting his own firm Gladius. With Pav also goes Rajesh Kedia and Bertrand Divet as Citadel loses a few more team members. They will be focused on what they excelled in at Citadel: volatility.

Paul Tudor Jones (Tudor Investment Corp) - Back in 1987 a documentary was filmed on Paul Tudor Jones and his hedge fund entitled 'Trader: The Documentary.' This film has become scarce and almost a form of trader contraband as Jones reportedly bought almost all available copies in the 1990's since he didn't want the flick floating around anymore. But, as with all great information, this video wanted to be set free. As such, the film was recently leaked onto the web and we posted it up yesterday. So, if you missed it, you can watch and/or download the video here.

5:15 Capital - In our last hedge fund update we mentioned the formation of a new hedge fund by some Brevan Howard alums. Named after a song from 'The Who', 5:15 has recently gotten an injection of $50 million from Man Group, one of the largest hedge fund managers on the globe. As part of the setup, Man Group will take a portion of 5:15's revenue. The Man Group sees 5:15 stepping into a nice niche in terms of hedge fund strategies, as the crisis has left the field relatively empty in their type of arbitrage.

Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway) - We aren't limiting our hedge fund updates to just hedge funds, as we're now also covering gurus and market strategists. Obviously, Buffett falls into this category. Buffett recently filed a 13D on Moody's (MCO) that disclosed he had sold 7,986,300 shares of the company ranging in prices from $26.59-$28.73. Despite the sales, Buffett still owns well over 40 million shares of the company. But, this filing is interesting to note because Buffett had previously championed the ratings agencies in public as solid investments. Has he had a change of heart? We'll continue to monitor the filings to see if he sells even more. Our immediate reaction was to wonder if he had been chatting with fellow value player David Einhorn of hedge fund Greenlight Capital. Einhorn recently presented the case for shorting Moody's at the Ira Sohn investment conference. It's always interesting to see a difference of opinion among smart minds, so that's why Buffett's selling becomes all the more curious. For further interesting reading, you can view Berkshire Hathaway's Annual Report here and investment ideas from hedge fund managers at the Ira Sohn conference here.

John Burbank (Passport Capital) - We just covered Passport's recent investor letter and saw some interesting developments in their portfolio. Most notably, we found out that they had been playing with interest rate bets including a curve steepener. Additionally, they have started to bet on the Japanese Yield Spread via 5-year CMS caps (calls), anticipating a rise in 10-year rates. Passport also likes Healthcare stocks as they are at the highest allocation in the fund's history. To read about the latest from Passport Capital, check out their latest investor letter update.

Jim Rogers (ex-Quantum Fund) - The market guru himself has been out and about in the media talking about his usual theses and positions. So, we don't really have a whole lot of new information to report in this regard. We just want to point out that (yet again) Rogers is very bullish on commodities.

Fortress Investment Group - The massive $27 billion hedge fund Fortress Investment Group is on the prowl for potential investments. However, they're not looking for market investments in the typical sense. Instead, they're looking to acquire other hedge funds and financial firms. Daniel Mudd, Fortress' new CEO, has said they will try to acquire money managers, banks, insurers, hedge funds, and the like. The industry in general has definitely seen a contraction as the weak fall by the wayside during the crisis. Since there have been many opportunities in the markets throughout the course of the crisis, it will be interesting to see if Fortress finds any 'deals' in the hedge fund landscape.

Andreas Halvorsen (Viking Global) - A few days ago we also covered Viking Global's latest investor letter. In the letter, we found out that they had lagged the market in the 2nd quarter of 2009 due to their short positions. More interestingly though, was the fact that they added a ton of new positions over the past quarter, 68 in all. They warned that all the new additions were not a bet on rising markets, but rather a result of their fundamental, bottom-up analysis. Their top 10 long positions as of the end of June were Invesco, Mastercard, Visa, Unilever, DirecTV, Google, JPMorgan Chase, Walt Disney, Bank of America, and Qualcomm. To find out what Viking Global has been up to, check out their portfolio update.

The Fine Violins Fund - No, we are not joking. Florian Leonhard is trying to raise capital for a Fine Violins Fund. Leonhard is a well-known violin restorer from London and has so far raised 16 million euros for the fund. He hopes to raise 60 million euros in total and seeks to invest in pre-19th century violins, primarily from Italy. Leonhard is targeting a portfolio of 50 violins and he will loan the violins out at no charge to musicians. In the past, we've touched on other obscure investment funds, such as a fund that invests in wine, a few funds that are investing in lawsuits, and another fund that invests in guitars. The musical instrument theme seems to be picking up steam and we'll have to see if a Trombone fund pops up next. Let us know if there are any other interesting funds out there that we might be missing out on. These types of funds are the definition of the term 'alternative asset class'.

David Rosenberg (Gluskin Sheff & Associates) - In our last article on Rosenberg, we noted his fondness for corporate bonds and his thoughts that the stock market in general already had a bunch of good news priced in. Rosenberg has been re-iterating his call on corporate bonds, this time saying that "they are still pricing in a very bad economic and financial market scenario. Moreover, the yield spread is still wider than at any point during the 2001 or 1990 recessions of the 1998 LTCM/Russian debt default freeze-up. In fact, history suggests that the corporate default rate would have to rise well above 7% for corporate bonds to deliver negative returns with yields as high as they are at around 7.25%." Additionally, in media appearances over the past month or so, we wanted to point out that Rosenberg indeed sees inflation as a threat. However, he says that threat is many years away. He also thinks we easily go through past unemployment levels of 10.8% and that from March to May, the stock market has essentially seen a 40% 'dead cat bounce'.

Hugh Hendry (Eclectica Fund) - Hugh is focused on the deflation versus inflation debate lately and he notes that he has never seen such a 'crowded trade' with people so confident that inflation is in our future. He favors bonds over equities and he thinks that deflation is the bigger risk here. Hugh says that, "It's almost as if we have this flood, but people are buying fire insurance." He is actually in favor of government bonds and notes that this is due to his contrarian nature. He is not too focused on the equity markets currently but says he will 'prod them' around August or September to see what is really going on there. We've covered Hugh's thoughts on the blog in the past and you can view his past investor letter here.

Michael Steinhardt (WisdomTree Investments, ex-Steinhardt Partners) - Hedge fund legend Michael Steinhardt sat down and talked with Bloomberg back in early June. While this is obviously not as recent as some of the other developments we've pointed out, we are highlighting it due to the excellent content in the interview. He talks about returns in equity markets going forward, the current stock market, the role of hedge funds, and what people should be investing in these days. We highly recommend watching the interview and you can view the video embedded below. (RSS & Email readers will need to come to the blog to view the video). In the past, we've also covered Michael Steinhardt's view on treasuries, as he says they are foolish.

Thanks for checking out our updates and stay tuned for more daily coverage of hedge fund land. In the mean time, make sure to also check out our recommended reading lists and our hedge fund portfolio tracking series.

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