Archive for the ‘Distressed Debt’ Category

Understanding Bankruptcy as the World Collapses Around You (1)

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

We have seen the dire economic consequences of excessive consumer, corporate, financial, and sovereign leverage of the past 5 years. Our global economy has been a punching bag for corporate greed, political incompetency, and poor central bank planning. From shadow banking and derivatives (“weapons of mass destruction” according to Mr. Buffet) in the United States to Greece’s fraudulent attempt to the enter the Eurozone, world markets have been whipsawed every year since 2007. I cannot help but feel deep remorse after witnessing multiple occasions of the VIX above 40, sovereign CDS making multi-year highs, and political uprising. Five years later, we have yet to learn that leverage is the primary cause of our pain.

Despite an Icelandic bankruptcy, 2 Greek bailouts, a Portuguese bailout, and Irish bailout, and a U.S. bank bailout, 35% of U.S. homes underwater, and 20%+ unemployment rates in certain Western nations, student loans have emerged as yet another bubble, the U.S. consumer savings rate remains below 4%, European banks are levered 26x on average, and countries continue to borrow at astronomical rates. Are we doomed to repeat our mistakes? Sadly, the answer seems to be yes.

Every 2 generations (70-80 years), individuals tend to forget the pain that their forefathers felt in a deep economic contraction. The Great Depression certainly did its job. Maybe we need a constant painful reminder to reign in our tendency to express “irrational exuberance?” Luckily, for learning purposes, a global debt deleveraging cycle is the most painful type of contraction. Hopefully, our children and grandchildren can learn from our mistakes.


Until then, I have started this series to explain the BANKRUPTCY process, specifically the U.S. Ch. 11 process, as I continue to do my part to clean up the riff-raff, the banksters, the incompetent politicians, and the corrupt corporate bureaucrats holding back true capitalism.

  • Bankruptcy is governed by federal statute (11 U.S.C., Section 101):
    • For the equitable distribution among creditors and shareholders of a debtor’s estate in accordance with either the principle of absolute priorities or the vote of bankruptcy majorities of holders of claims
    • To provide a reasonable opportunity, under Chapter 11, to effect a reorganization of business
    • For the opportunity to make a “fresh start” through, among other things, the discharge of debts

  • The goals of bankruptcy are:
    • To afford the greatest possibility of resolution for the estate as a whole, while maintaining the balance of power as between all creditors and the debtor as of the petition date
  • Debtor’s rights and protections include:
    • Automatic stay: an automatic injunction to halt action by creditors
    • Exclusivity to formulate/propose plan of reorganization
    • Continued control and management of the Company
    • Assumption/rejection of executor contracts and unexpired leases
    • Asset sale decisions
    • Avoidance actions
    • Discharge of claims
  • Secured creditor’s rights and protections:
    • Secured to extent of value of collateral
    • Limitations on debtor’s ability to use proceeds/profits of collateral (“cash collateral”)
    • Entitled to “adequate protection” for use of collateral or diminution thereof
    • Entitled to relief from automatic stay for cause shown
    • Entitled to interest and reasonable legal fees when collateral value exceeds debt
    • Entitled to be paid in full in cash or to retain lien to the extent of its allowed claim and receive deferred cash payments totaling at least the allowed amount of such claim

  • Unsecured creditors’ rights and protections include:
    • Majority voting controls
    • Improved and mandated disclosure by debtor
    • Committee representation at debtor’s expense
    • Ability to challenge business judgment of debtor
    • Absolute priority rule generally ensures payment before distribution to existing equity security holders
    • Ability to examine/challenge validity and enforceability of liens and, if debtor refuses, to obtain authority to bring fraudulent conveyance, preference and other actions
    • May continue to exercise corporate governance subject to limitations
    • Valuation as the fulcrum and equalizer of debt and creditor powers
  • Equity may also seek committee representation under certain circumstances and thereby obtain leverage similar to that of creditors’ committee

~Xavier, Leverage Academy Instructor

(All similar entries are in LA’s “Bankruptcy” folder on the right of the blog.)

Italian 10 year Yield Rises Above 7.4%, Country Theoretically Unable to Fund Itself at These Levels (Bankrupt), Prime Minister Offers to Resign

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

November 9, 2011: After Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi offered to resign yesterday, the credit markets almost sighed in relief. But today, markets were punched in the jugular as LCH.Clearnet increased margin requirements on Italian bonds. Margins were raised because 10 year credit spread exceeded 450 bps, the same point at which Clearnet raised margins on the bonds of other peripheral countries in Europe.
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The pressure is certainly on the ECB and Italy now to find a solution to this debt crisis, as Italy is too large to be bailout out. Yesterday, known for his sex scandals and political corruption, Prime Minister Berlusconi was pressured to leave his post because Italian yields were creeping above 6.5%. According to the Times, “In the end, it was not the sex scandals, the corruption trials against him or even a loss of popular consensus that appeared to end Mr. Berlusconi’s 17 years as a dominant figure in Italian political life. It was, instead, the pressure of the markets — which drove Italy’s borrowing costs to record highs — and the European Union, which could not risk his dragging down the euro and with it the world economy. On Wednesday, yields on 10-year Italian government bonds — the price demanded by investors to loan Italy money — edged above 7 percent, the highest level since the adoption of the euro 10 years ago and close to levels that have required other euro zone countries to seek bailouts.”
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Currently, the Italian 10 year yield has exceeded 7.4%, and the 2 year note has risen more than 10 year rate. At this point, Italy is theoretically unable to fund itself and could theoretically be bankrupt. The margin call on bonds due between seven and 10 years was raised by five percentage points to 11.65%, for bonds due between 10 years and 15 years it was raised by five percentage points to 11.80%, while for bonds that mature in 15 years and 30 years the margin call was raised by five percentage points to 20%. The changes come into effect Nov. 9 and will have an impact on margin calls from Nov. 10, the French arm of LCH.Clearnet said.

MF Global Files for Bankruptcy and Plunges in First Day of OTC Trading

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

November 2, 2011 - MF Global (NYSE: MF) tumbled in its first day of over-the-counter trading after the futures brokerage filed for bankruptcy, prompting the New York Stock Exchange to delist the shares.  MF Global’s bankruptcy is the 8th largest bankruptcy of all time.

The stock, quoted under the symbol “MFGLQ,” declined 83 percent to 21 cents at 12:45 p.m. New York time on trading volume of 170.9 million shares. MF Global plunged 67 percent last week as the New York-based firm reported a record $191.6 million quarterly loss.

MF Global stock hasn’t changed hands during a regular trading session since Oct. 28. NYSE Euronext suspended the stock before the New York Stock Exchange opened on Oct. 31. MF Global filed the eighth-largest U.S. bankruptcy this week after failing to find a buyer over the weekend. The futures broker suffered a ratings downgrade and loss of customers after revealing it had investments related to $6.3 billion in European sovereign debt.

The night before MF posted its biggest quarterly loss, triggering a 48 percent stock plunge, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jon Corzine appeared at a steak dinner at New York’s Helmsley Park Lane Hotel for a speech to a group of bankers and traders.

“There was no sense at all that there was impending doom,” Kenneth Polcari, a managing director of ICAP Corporates, said of Corzine’s Oct. 24 address to the National Organization of Investment Professionals. “He gave a spectacular speech” about his decades at Goldman Sachs, life as a U.S. senator and New Jersey governor and his return to the private sector. “He’s had a full life, up until now.”

Corzine, 64, excused himself before the main course was served, saying he had to prepare for an earnings call the next day, said David Shields, vice chairman of New York-based brokerage Wellington Shields & Co. and a former chairman of the organization. The group seeks to foster “a favorable regulatory environment,” according to its website.

Timothy Mahoney, CEO of New York-based Bids Trading LP, said Corzine’s speech was “delightful.”

The next day, MF Global reported a $191.6 million net loss tied to its $6.3 billion wager on European sovereign debt. On Oct. 27, after the company’s bonds dropped to 63.75 cents on the dollar, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings cut the firm to below investment grade, or junk. Unable to find a buyer, the company filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 31, the first major U.S. casualty of the European debt crisis.

‘Serve the Public’

At least two dozen U.S. lawmakers and regulators, including Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York, and former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt have addressed the group, according to its website.

“There are many people in the group that do lobby and talk to regulators,” Shields said. “You talk to regulators, you talk to lawmakers and you try to get the points forward, things that will help the marketplace, that will serve the public.”

The group’s board includes head traders at firms such as Waddell & Reed Financial Inc., whose futures trade triggered the flash crash of May 6, 2010, according to a study by the SEC and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Its members’ firms “trade approximately 70 percent of the institutional volume transacted daily in the New York and Nasdaq markets,” according to the website.

‘Difficult’ Day

The group’s current chairman, Dan Hannafin of Boston-based investment manager Wellington Management Co., declined to comment on the dinner. Corzine and Diana DeSocio, an MF Global spokeswoman, didn’t reply to an e-mailed request for comment.

Mahoney said he appreciated Corzine’s ability “to compartmentalize” and speak engagingly last week. Mahoney’s firm, Bids, runs a private trading venue known as a dark pool, and is a joint venture of banks including Goldman Sachs.

Before the speech, Moody’s cut MF Global’s credit ratings to the lowest investment grade. Polcari said there was one reference to Corzine’s “difficult” day.

While he was “cordial” and “positive,” the MF Global chief lacked his typical “sharp bounce,” Shields said. Corzine is “a member of the community,” and could be invited back after the bankruptcy, he said. “People go through bad times.”

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Baker at nbaker7@bloomberg.net

Martin J. Whitman on Distressed Investing – A Legend and Founder of Third Avenue

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Over the past two years, I have become a staunch follower of Martin J. Whitman, a legend in deep value investing and founder of Third Avenue. I have read his book, Distress Investing twice now, and wanted to share some excerpts with you. Hopefully you will pick up a copy too!

According to Whitman, there have been three major trends that have shaped the credit markets since the innovation of the high yield (junk bond) in the late seventies through 2008:

1)      Financial Innovation

2)      New Laws & Regulations

3)      2007-2008 Financial Meltdown

1)      New credit instruments, capital structures, and financial institutions grossly inflated the size of the credit and derivatives markets from the 1980s to 2008.  The shadow banking system (SIVs, SPEs) and securities this system issued like CLOs were part of this trend.  Credit default swaps eventually allowed banks and hedge funds to make highly levered bets against issuers, directly influencing market perceptions about credit worthiness.

New primary and secondary markets improved liquidity for below investment grade issues in the late 80s and early 90s.  Leveraged loans that one would have paid 40 cents for in the 1980s, investors were paying 85-90 cents for in the early 90s through the 2007/2008 meltdown.  Almost 70% of leveraged loans were held by nonbank institutions like hedge funds, CDOs, CLOs, etc.

2)      After Gramm-Leach Bliley passed in 1999, commercial banks also began to act more like underwrites, completely eschewing credit risks, and collecting fees on originating loans, bonds, and ABS.  Securitization allowed for the transfer of risk off of bank balance sheets.

BACPA, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 imposed new time limits for filing a plan of reorganization (POR) and shortened the amount of time required for business bankruptcy filings.  It additionally shortened the time over which investors could decide to curtail payments on property and reject non-residential real estate losses.  Finally, it curtailed executive pay for firms under Ch. 11 and enhanced vendor rights, so trade vendors were pari passu with the unsecured creditors.

Many of these innovations drove litigation costs so high, that today most of the reorganizations done today are prepackaged or prenegotiated filings.

History

According to Whitman, since 1950, credit market debt has grown at 4.1% in real terms, while GDP grew at 2.7%.  In the 1970s, more of the below investment grade debt was classified as “fallen angel,” and was originally investment grade credit.  Originally issued high yield bonds, which were unsecured and had much less restrictive covenants than loans, were quite rare.  They took the form of Rule 144A securities (unregistered with the SEC).

Junk bonds were unsecured claims usually subordinate to senior loans and senior unsecured debt.  But by the 1980s, they were the preferred security for driving LBO and M&A transactions.  By 1989, high yield debt consisted of 20%+ of the non-financial bond universe. (to be ctnd…)

Cheers, Tom Rendon

KKR Tries to Fool Investors with Toys R’ Us IPO

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Toys R Us was an Opco-Propco deal done by KKR, Bain, and Vornado in 2005 for $6.5+ billion.  The company was one of the largest owners of real estate in the United States, other than McDonalds.  Since the toy business was not performing well and Babies R Us could not yet produce enough EBITDA to drive the company’s public valuation, these three players found an opportunity to take advantage of its real estate holdings (good call, right?).  Unfortunately, the company now has $5.5 billion in debt on its balance sheet and only has 2.3% growth in sales, a $35mm loss in earnings, down from $95mm in profit last year, and a 25% increase in expenses year over year (SA).  Cash used in operations also increased from $800mm to $1.2 billion over that time period.  Sounds like a great time to IPO, right?  Well, the sponsors in this deal seem to think so.  With equity markets topping, they are trying their hardest to take advantage of foolish retail investors.  Invest at your own risk:

“(Reuters) – Toys R Us Inc TOY.UL is looking to raise around $800 million in an initial public offering in April, though a final decision has not been reached, the New York Post said on Saturday.

The New Jersey-based retailer, which operates stores under its namesake brand and the Babies R Us and FAO Schwarz labels, had put off plans for an IPO in 2010.

“Toys R Us took more market share from competitors last year than they have in the past 20 years,” said one source the Post described as close to the company. “But I don’t think they were satisfied with how they did on the profit level.”

Toys R Us spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh said the company could not comment on the matter.

For December 2010, Toys R Us reported a 5.4 percent total sales rise at its U.S. unit as it lured holiday shoppers away from No. 1 toy retailer Wal-Mart with more temporary stores and exclusive toys. But same-store sales fell 5 percent at its international segment.

Overall, a tough 2010 holiday season had margins hit across the toy industry by bargain-seeking, recession-hit consumers.

So the economic environment has stoked continued debate between management and owners at Toys R Us about whether this is the best time to re-launch an IPO, according to a source briefed on the situation, the Post reported.

Toys R Us was taken private in 2005 by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts KKR.AS, Bain Capital and Vornado Realty Trust in a $6.6 billion deal.

In May 2010, the company filed to raise as much as $800 million in an IPO. But that was not launched.

Toys R Us’s net loss widened to $93 million in the third quarter ended on October 30, 2010, from $67 million a year earlier. While sales were up 1.9 percent in the period, total operating expenses rose about 9.4 percent.

Last fall, the retailer opened 600 smaller “pop-up” stores that added to the more than 850 larger year-round stores it operates in the United States, the Post said.”

Greenstone Value Opportunity Fund, LP 2010 Annual Letter (Distressed, Deep Value Fund)

Friday, February 25th, 2011

After closing three strong years of performance (2008 – 2.5%, 2009 – 36.5%, 2010 – 15.6%), Greenstone shares its outlook for 2011, as the year of “dividend chasing.”  2010 was certainly a year of “credit chasing,” where all funds searched for yield in high yield bonds, leveraged loans, and REITs.  About 80% of the Greenstone portfolio is investing in traditional deep value securities, and 20% is invested in “special situations.”  The last bullet point in Greenstone’s themes is that historically, “economies with the highest growth produce the lowest stock returns by an immense margin (yes, you read that right). In fact, stocks in countries with the highest economic growth have earned an annual average return of 6%; those in the slowest-growing nations have gained an average of 12% annually (source: Credit Suisse Global Returns Yearbook). This could be especially true in 2011, where equity investors in emerging markets are fighting policymakers.”

Here are Greenstone’s selected themes for 2011:

• We still like equities, particularly in the U.S. While they currently seem short-term overbought, and a technical correction is possible, we still see the most value in this area, especially when we consider the alternatives.

• In reviewing our letters from early last year, we talked about 2010 being the “Year of the Yield Chaser” in the credit space. We cut the majority of our credit exposure in Q1 and Q2 of 2010 because of what we thought was limited further upside appreciation potential. We can see 2011 being the “Year of the Dividend Chaser”.
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• Offshore deepwater drilling is the last bastion for hydrocarbon discovery. We think a lot of “first time” emerging market demand characteristics and higher oil prices will lead to increased deepwater programs by the IOCs and NOCs. We have a handful of positions that give us exposure to this area.
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• We would consider shorting natural gas companies because of the supply/demand dynamics and high valuations. We could see a scenario where the contrarian call is to go long physical natural gas because 1) it’s unloved and 2) the historical ratio between gas and oil prices is creating the perception that gas might be a buy. However, even with increasing demand for natural gas expected in the U.S. this year, we still have a tremendous overabundance of supply. We’re keeping an eye on high multiple natural gas companies and MLP’s that derive a generous amount of “other income” from hedging programs that are set to roll off.
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• The M&A space is one that, for various reasons, we see doing well going forward. This primarily derives from the cash reserves on S&P 500 company balance sheets, which are at the highest level in ten years (currently over $1.2 trillion). This is almost 50% more than the $825 billion held in cash in September 2008. Information technology is the leading sector with cash reserves. With a near 0% interest rate environment, how long can companies hold so much cash? VC’s and Private Equity have not had a genuine chance to monetize their portfolios for 2-3 years now, and we believe they will search out the cash rich/public company exit option. We currently have 5+ names in the portfolio that we believe could benefit from such a trend.
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• This year could finally be the year where companies have the ability to pass through their increased input costs to consumers. This would result in inflation showing up in the U.S., despite what the CPI is saying.
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• Along with middle of the road valuations, allocation shifts could be a boom for the equity market in 2011. It is interesting to hear people like Byron Wein say that “Institutional portfolios have to have more of their money invested in places like China, India, and Latin America,” essentially saying that developing countries are generating a majority of the world’s growth, and institutional portfolios should have exposure to these markets. Mr. Wein recommends large conventional institutions substantially increase their allocations to hedge funds and emerging markets.
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• European and municipal debt issues will once again provide buying opportunities when the markets turns south on these worries. With municipal budgets due in early June, expect more movement in and around this time frame. We have taken advantage of market gyrations that these events have previously offered, and would look to do so again.
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• The dramatic equity rally from the lows at the end of June occurred almost entirely with net outflows from domestic equity funds, and net inflows into domestic fixed income funds. Late in the fourth quarter, this dynamic switched for the first time in a long while, with inflows into equities and outflows from bond funds. If this trend continues, which it appears that it might, even more fuel could be added to the recent stock market rally.
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• Even in light of the money flows just mentioned, we don’t expect John Q. Public will come charging back into the market any time soon. We are wary, however, about the potential shift of pensions and endowments (who manage John Q. Public’s money) into equity markets. Essentially, there are way too many underperforming endowments (relative to their liabilities), and they may be forced to chase returns in order to meet their obligations.
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• In contrast to the Byron Wein bullet point above, Elroy Dimson of the London Business School has decades of compelling data from 50+ countries to support the view that high economic growth in emerging markets doesn’t ensure high stock returns. His book, ‘Triumph of the Optimists: 101 Years of Global Investment Returns’, along with several other studies, have underlying evidence that economies with the highest growth produce the lowest stock returns by an immense margin (yes, you read that right). In fact, stocks in countries with the highest economic growth have earned an annual average return of 6%; those in the slowest-growing nations have gained an average of 12% annually (source: Credit Suisse Global Returns Yearbook). This could be especially true in 2011, where equity investors in emerging markets are fighting policymakers (who are trying to cool off overheated economies with monetary policy, etc), while developed markets are receiving tailwinds from policymakers (who are aggressively trying to lift the prices for risk assets). While many are clamoring for additional exposure to emerging markets, we believe the best risk/reward is to continue to find value in developed markets like the United States.

December 2010 (1) Letter from Distressed Debt Investing Blog

Paulson Proves He is Not “One Hit Wonder,” Pulls in $1.25 billion for 2010

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

 

After being bashed by many hedge fund managers as a “one hit wonder,” Paulson closed well in 2010, putting another strong year under his belt.  The Paulson Advantage Fund was up 14% at the end of 2010 (after being down more than 10% earlier).  His largest stakes were in Hartford Financial Services, MGM, and Boston Scientific.  The Paulson Gold Fund also performed well, given the runup in physical commodities this year.  After outperforming many of his competitors, it is rumored that the hedge fund manager will earn $1.25 billion for himself this year.  It is also interesting to see the divergence in HF manager earnings in the U.S. versus the U.K…

According to Daily News UK, “multi-billionaire US hedge fund manager John Paulson, who pulled off one of the biggest coups in Wall Street history when he made £2.3bn by betting against the sub-prime housing market, is showing the Midas touch again writes Edward Helmore from New York. 

Initial reports suggest his firm, Paulson & Co, has made returns of nearly treble the industry average of 7 per cent in 2010, giving him a personal gain estimated at more than £800mm ($1.25 billion). 

That would eclipse even the biggest earners on the UK hedge fund scene, based in London’s swish Mayfair district.

Colm O’Shea of fund group Comac is reported to have made nearly £10mm last year as did Jonathan Ruffer, of the eponymous investment company. 

Crispin Odey, founder of Odey Asset Management took home £36.4mm. ”

According to Dealbook, “two years after Mr. Paulson pulled off one of the greatest trades in Wall Street history, with a winning bet against the overheated mortgage market, he has managed to salvage a poor year for his giant hedge fund with a remarkable come-from-behind showing.

Defying those who said his subprime success was an anomaly, Mr. Paulson appears to have scored big on bets he made on companies that would benefit from an economic rebound.

In less than three months, his flagship fund, the Paulson Advantage Fund, has turned a double-digit loss into a double-digit gain. At mid-December, the fund, which was worth $9 billion at the start of the year, was up about 14 percent, according to one investor in the fund who provided confidential figures on the condition of anonymity.

It is a remarkable turnabout for Mr. Paulson, whose winning gamble against the housing market plucked him from obscurity and transformed him into one of the most celebrated money managers in the business.

What precisely propelled the sharp rebound in Mr. Paulson’s hedge fund is unclear. A spokesman for Paulson & Company declined to comment, and regulatory filings of significant changes made to Mr. Paulson’s funds typically lag behind by several weeks.

But it is clear that several of Mr. Paulson’s largest stakes — in Hartford Financial Services, MGM Resorts and Boston Scientific — went on a tear in the final quarter of the year, with gains of 16 percent, 30 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

“Several of his general investment themes this year came to fruition,” the investor in the Paulson Advantage Fund said.

Mr. Paulson stands out in what may go down as a lukewarm year for many hedge fund managers. The average return for funds through the end of November was 7.1 percent after fees, according to a composite index tracked by Hedge Fund Research of Chicago. Investors would have done better buying a low-cost mutual fund that tracks the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, which rose 7.8 percent during that period.

With volatile markets creating uncertainty for hedge fund managers this year, some investors are surprised that these funds did even that well. But they expect the funds to continue to attract money from investors, particularly state pension funds seeking higher returns to offset their budget shortfalls.

“When investors look back at the year they’re going to be pretty happy,” said David T. Shukis, a managing director of hedge fund research and consulting at Cambridge Associates, which oversees $26 billion in hedge fund assets for clients.

But the lackluster performance has other people wondering: are hedge funds worthwhile? The high fees and muted returns — and a long-running federal investigation into insider trading in the industry — has cast a cloud over a business that long defined Wall Street wealth.

“A client told me the other day that paying these ridiculous fees for single-digit returns, then worrying about these investigations — it’s just not worth it,” said Bradley H. Alford, chief investment officer at Alpha Capital Management, which invests in hedge funds. “A lot of these things you can sweep under the rug when there are double-digit returns, but in this environment it’s tougher.”

This year, bets by hedge fund managers were whipsawed by the stock market “flash crash” in May; the European debt crisis; frustration with the Obama administration over what many in the business viewed as anti-Wall Street rhetoric; and the Federal Reserve’s unusual strategy of buying bonds in the open market to hold down interest rates.

“It was an interesting year where you had to have a couple of gut checks,” said David Tepper, founder of Appaloosa Management, whose Palomino fund, which invests largely in distressed debt, was up nearly 21 percent at the end of October, according to data from HSBC Private Bank.

“If you had those gut checks, looked around and made the right decisions, you could make some money,” Mr. Tepper added.

There are still many hurdles for the industry to clear, including the insider trading investigation, lingering difficulty in raising money, and the liquidity demands from investors still fuming over lockups in 2008 that denied them access to their cash.

Some hedge fund notables will probably remember 2010 as a year they would like to write off. For instance, Harbinger Capital, run by Philip A. Falcone, was down 13.8 percent at the end of November, according to HSBC’s data.

But the Third Point Offshore fund, run by Dan Loeb, was up 25 percent for the year through November after it made successful bets on one of Europe’s largest media operators, ProSieben, and Anadarko Petroleum, according to a report obtained from an investor in the fund.

Other big names also fared well. SAC Capital Advisors, run by Steven A. Cohen, was up about 13 percent in its flagship fund, one of his investors said.

A handful of other usual suspects turned out solid performances this year too, according to investors in their funds: David Einhorn notched a 10.5 percent return at his Greenlight Capital hedge fund through November, raising the fund’s total to $6.8 billion.

And after two consecutive years of losses, James Simons, the seer of quantitative hedge funds, was up 17 percent in his two public Renaissance funds, which now collectively manage $7 billion.

The figures reflect performance after fees through November, and do not take into account the strong market rally in the final month of the year, some investors noted.

For many, being in the right sectors of the market — distressed debt and emerging markets, for instance — paid off handsomely.

“If you look at how some of the distressed managers performed, you’re seeing some really good returns among a number of funds,” said David Bailin, global head of managed investments at Citi Private Bank.

Bets on distressed debt produced a return of more than 19 percent as of the end of October for the Monarch Debt Recovery Fund, overseen by a pair of former Lazard managers. Similarly, Pershing Square, a fund run by William A. Ackman, was up 27 percent after fees through the end of November.

Mr. Ackman’s big win was a bet on the debt of General Growth Properties, a developer that emerged from bankruptcy last month.

It was a bumpy year for Mr. Paulson who, besides making a huge bet on gold — which rose 30 percent — also took large stakes in several companies he believed would benefit from a sharp recovery in the economy, including banking and financial services companies.

But as the economic recovery sputtered along, Mr. Paulson’s portfolio sank, prompting some critics to claim that his funds had become too big to manage. Some of Mr. Paulson’s investors asked for their money back around midyear.

At one point this summer, in fact, other hedge fund managers were selling short stocks Mr. Paulson held in his funds, betting that redemption requests would flood in and that he would be forced to sell down some of his big positions, according to a hedge fund trader at another firm who declined to be named for fear of damaging business relationships. He said investors were making similar bets against stocks held by Mr. Falcone’s Harbinger fund.

As recently as the end of September, Mr. Paulson’s flagship Advantage Plus fund was down 11 percent. As of last week, the fund was up more than 14 percent for the year. (His clients are mostly institutions that invest a minimum of $10 million in the fund.)

Patience paid off for Mr. Paulson as many bets he made late last year and early this year finally shot higher in the last quarter.

This year, Mr. Paulson bought 43 million shares of the gambling company MGM, whose shares have soared more than 30 percent since the end of September. A bet of 40 million shares in the cable giant Comcast has risen 22 percent this quarter.

Shares of Boston Scientific, of which Mr. Paulson owns 80 million shares, have skyrocketed 26 percent, and his 44 million shares of Hartford Financial Services climbed 16 percent in the quarter.

One of Mr. Paulson’s newer positions, a stake in Anadarko Petroleum, moved up 20 percent in the quarter.

With the last-minute rally, Mr. Paulson saved himself from being the headliner among flat funds this year. Most were not so fortunate, with many hedging against their stakes late in the year, expecting that stocks would end the year down. That move, some say, probably limited their gains.

“Psychology is such a fragile thing,” said William C. Crerend, the chief executive of EACM Advisors, which oversees a $3.6 billion fund for Bank of New York Mellon.”

David Tepper Personally Earns $4 Billion for 2009 Performance

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

We thank Dan for his contribution to Leverage Academy, LLC and for writing this biography on David Tepper, of Appaloosa, who made $4 billion for himself last year.

David Tepper grew up in a middle class neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA. He became interested in the stock market after observing his dad, an accountant, trade stocks during the day.  Following high school, he enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh, where he excelled. After Tepper graduated with a degree in economics, he found a job with Equibank as a credit analyst. He quickly became bored with the role and enrolled in the MBA program at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Business, now named after him. [1] Tepper’s experience at Carnegie Mellon helped him learn options theory at a time when there were no textbooks written on the subject. Kenn Dunn, the Dean of school of the school himself taught these option courses.[2]

After graduating, Tepper worked in the Treasury division at Republic Steel, once the third largest steel manufacturer in the U.S.  Soon after, Tepper moved onto Keystone Mutual Funds, and finally to Goldman Sachs.  At Goldman, Tepper focused on his original role as a credit analyst.  However, six months later, he became the head trader on the high yield bond desk!  Despite his successes, Tepper was not promoted to partner due to his disregard for office politics.  After eight years at Goldman, he left and started Appaloosa Management in 1992 with Jack Walton, another Goldman Sachs trader.

With his background in bankruptcies and special situations at Goldman, Tepper applied his skills and experience at the new hedge fund, and it worked out tremendously for him. Tepper is categorized as a distressed debt investor, but he really analyzes and invests in the entire capital structure of distressed companies, from senior secured debt to sub-debt and post-bankruptcy equity. His fund has averaged a 30% average return since 1993!  While that number is particularly high, Appaloosa has fairly volatile historical returns.  In 2008, Tepper’s fund was down around 25% for the year. For the investor that stuck with him, this certainly paid off with a 120% return after fees in 2009. [3] Tepper shies away from the typical glitz and glamour of the ostentatious hedge fund industry. Appaloosa is not based in New York, but in a small office in Chatham, NJ. It is only about 15 minutes from his house so he can spend more time with his family. The firm manages around $12 billion.

Tepper’s astronomical returns resulted from huge bets on the banking industry, specifically Bank of America (BAC) and Citibank (C). He bought BAC around $3.72 and Citi near $0.79. At year’s end, BAC ended at $15.06, a 305% return, and Citi ended at $3.31, a 319% return.  Appaloosa also has invested in other financial companies such as Wells Fargo (WFC), Suntrust (STI), and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). Other companies Tepper has investments in are Rite Aid (RAD) , Office Depot (ODP), Good Year Tire and Rubber (GT), OfficeMax (OMX), and Microsoft (MSFT).  He believes that valuations on stocks and bonds in the financial industry remain favorable, and he is now investing in commercial real estate, a place where many analysts expect huge losses.[4]

Tepper’s investment strategy involves finding value in these distressed companies and betting big. He is not very diversified in his holdings compared to most hedge funds. Investing in these distressed companies can be a very lonely business. David Tepper stated about his recent purchases of BAC and Citi, “I felt like I was alone. No one was even bidding.” While some don’t like being alone, Tepper’s contrarian approach helped him scoop up these companies at bargain prices. Tepper reminds himself that he needs a contrarian attitude every day when he walks into his office and sees a pair of brass balls on his desk, literally. “Mr. Tepper keeps a brass replica of a pair of testicles in a prominent spot on his desk, a present from former employees. He rubs the gift for luck during the trading day to get a laugh out of colleagues.”[5] While humorous, these brass balls represent his strategy of taking concentrated bets on these companies that the market does not see any value in.

David Tepper has not been without controversy. In his dealings with Delphi, an auto parts maker, his hedge fund along with other investors backed out of their exit financing agreement after Delphi sought additional funding from General Motors. His hedge fund believed accepting money from an automaker would hurt Delphi’s ability to win contracts with other automakers. The hedge fund also claimed that this funding arrangement broke their financing agreement. Delphi, in turn sued, declaring that the issue was a “story of betrayal and mistrust.” [6] It has since gone into Chapter 11 reorganization.

While most hedge fund managers who have made $4 billion in a year during one of the worst recessions since the 1930s would face scrutiny from the press, public, and government, Tepper has largely gone unscathed due to the lack of glitz and glamour of his lifestyle. Tepper lives in a New Jersey suburb in the same house that he bought in the early 1990s and coaches his kids’ sports teams. He is a family man is proud of raising three good children. He says, “It was much easier when they were younger. It’s harder now when they open the paper and see how much money I make.”[7]

Last year, Tepper told the business school magazine at Carnegie Mellon that money should be a secondary goal, while living an upstanding life and pursuing what you enjoy should be the top priority.[8] Tepper does not forget about his roots either. He regularly goes to Pittsburgh to visit his alma mater and to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers (of which he is now a part owner).  He also donates money to food pantries and other charities around Pittsburgh.[9] Tepper comes to Carnegie Mellon frequently to talk to students about what needs to be improved at the school. Students describe him as down to earth, friendly, and very candid. While he has been an extremely successful hedge fund manager, he does not lead an extravagant lifestyle and continues to deliver excellent results to investors. His philosophy is very simple: if you treat people right, run your business right, and run your life right, you will create a sustainable business.


[1] http://web.tepper.cmu.edu/tepper/about.aspx

[2] http://www.americanwaymag.com/carnegie-mellon-appaloosa-management-david-a-tepper-school-of-business-coo-and-president

[3] http://seekingalpha.com/article/179565-2009-s-billion-dollar-man-david-tepper

[4] ibid

[5] http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2009/12/david_tepper_made_7_billion_do.html

[6] http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/appaloosa-and-icahn-said-to-mull-bids-for-delphi/#more-85819

[7] http://www.tepper.cmu.edu/news-multimedia/tepper-stories/david-tepper/index.aspx

[8] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/25bn-pay-packet-for-fund-manager-1847227.html

[9] http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/business/s_658849.html

2010 Top 10 Highest Earning Hedge Fund Managers
Rank Name Firm Name 2009 Earnings
1 David Tepper Appaloosa Management $4 billion
2 George Soros Soros Fund Management $3.3 billion
3 James Simons Renaissance Technologies $2.5 billion
4 John Paulson Paulson & Co. $2.3 billion
5 Steve Cohen SAC Capital Advisors $1.4 billion
6 Carl Icahn Icahn Capital $1.3 billion
7 Edward Lampert ESL Investments $1.3 billion
8 Kenneth Griffin Citadel Investment Group $900 million
9 John Arnold Centaurus Advisors $900 million
10 Philip Falcone Harbinger Capital Partners $825 million

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