Hedge Fund Panel: Credit Opportunities In The Current Environment (Lasry, Altman, Eberts) ~ market folly

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hedge Fund Panel: Credit Opportunities In The Current Environment (Lasry, Altman, Eberts)

This is the last article in a series on the hedge fund panels that recently took place. Over the past few days, we've covered an introductory post that outlined key takeaways from the event and a separate post that detailed the "Case For Global Equities in 2010" from a panel of prominent long/short equity hedge fund managers. Additionally, we highlighted the hedge fund manager panel on the global investment landscape in 2010 as well as the discussion of alpha in asset allocation.

The last hedge fund panel we're covering includes thoughts from Anchorage Advisors' Kevin Ulrich, Avenue Capital's Marc Lasry, Goldman Sachs' Kenneth Eberts, and Owl Creek's Jeffrey Altman.

Credit Opportunities In The Current Environment: Where Do We Go From Here?

The panel agreed that 2009 was fueled by liquidity. They note that the easy money has been made and many situations actually played out very fast. The cycle is not over; there is more to come and there was disagreement as to where the most opportunity was: mid-caps or large credits that are restructuring.

Marc Lasry (Avenue Capital): Lasry thinks that the large cap opportunities are gone for 2010 and that mid-caps provide the best opportunity as there is still $1 trillion to be re-financed there. Avenue really likes restructurings and is adding to their staff to take advantage of it. Lasry thinks that middle market companies are discounted since there's not much liquidity (banks aren't providing them capital). He mentioned that in 2009 you "had" to be invested and you can tell who did well from a credit perspective by looking at the returns. Avenue's international fund was up 66% last year as detailed in our post on 2009 hedge fund performance numbers.

Jeffrey Altman (Owl Creek Asset Management): Altman and Owl Creek are contrarians by nature and think the opportunities will be in one-off's rather than entire sectors like it was in 2009. They see opportunity in finance and healthcare because many other investors aren't fond of those arenas as they are filled with volatility. Last year, they mainly focused on process driven trades and as those are maturing, they're interested in moving forward with LBO's that needed restructuring. Right now they have tail hedges on via S&P puts and CDS because they are worried that if there is another economic/financial problem that the government won't be able to do much since rates are already at 0%. Overall though, Altman sees opportunity for those with capital to deploy as private equity firms and banks are doing less in the arena.

Kenneth Eberts (Goldman Sachs): Eberts mentioned that Goldman Sachs Investment Partners was heavily invested in capital structure arbitrage in 2009 as they thought it was the best way to own the economic tails (buy equity, short debt). Moving to 2010, they are honing in on the short side in investment grade as they feel it is the 'worst priced' since it's the tightest. He notes that if everything is fine and dandy in the world, they won't move much. However, if we start to see problems again, these will be seen as mis-priced and will fall hard. Lastly, he thinks that if China doesn't buy the excess Treasuries supply coming to market in 2010 that you could see a credit widening.

Kevin Ulrich (Anchorage Advisors): Ulrich focused on how the liquidity-driven 2009 is a thing of the past and that there are still opportunities on the long side in the distressed segment. Anchorage likes cyclicals near-term as there is an opportunity to benefit from financial and operational leverage. He mentions that credit default swaps (CDS) are still the best way to short, but notes they have definitely become less liquid. However, he does think a clearing house would be an improvement.

That ends the coverage of the conference. Head to all the posts on the hedge fund panels including:

- The Case For Global Equities in 2010

- Is There Alpha in Asset Allocation?

- The Global Investment Landscape in 2010

- Key Takeaways From The Event

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