The Daily Alpha - 3.21.16

The Daily Alpha - 3.21.16

Garrett Baldwin

Bill Ackman's Blues, Pot Hedge Funds, China Debt, and Google's Big Sell...

“We’ve been criticized for allowing the holding to grow so large, but our feeling before the crisis erupted was that Valeant was executing well on its business model.”

Bill Ackman’s Valeant position has weighed mightily on Pershing Square Capital in 2016.

The stock is off more than 73% this year, and down more than 60% over the last week. Company accounting problems, a change up of leadership, fleeting sales, and concerns about a default risk are just the first page of the company’s list of problems. 

The stock jumped 15% today on new that Ackman will be joining the Board of Directors after the company announced it will transition away from CEO Michael Pearson, who just returned recently after a bout of pneumonia. Ackman will need a quick turnaround, as his hedge fund is off more than 26% this year.

S&P is discussing the idea of slashing the BBB rating of Ackman's publicly traded Pershing Square Holdings vehicle, and he’s down billions on paper from the trade. He’s been unloading shares of Mondelez in order to free up cash.

After the Mondelez sale, Ackman went on the defensive, writing a letter to investors and appearing on the safest place for a hedge fund manager to appear for questions: CNBC.

A CNBC piece released on Thursday said that Ackman’s Mondelez sale was for “rebalancing.” Ackman says the position was much greater than other stakes, like Valeant.

Naturally many people on Wall Street wondered if Ackman had received a margin call.

Ackman denied that… 

 “We don’t use margin leverage,” he said in an interview with CNBC. “Never have and never will.”

He also denied that he was preparing for a wave of redemptions. Ackman said that 83% of investors who could have redeemed decided to stay in the fund.

All of this is fair… but the MDLZ timing is interesting, isn’t it?

But for all the attention on Ackman these days and his losing position in the Canadian drug maker… it turns out that someone else has it worse than him – the firm’s largest shareholder.

Due to its sharp losses and sizable position in Valeant, Morningstar has placed vaunted stock-picking firm Sequoia Fund under review…

So, here’s why Robert Goldfarb is having a worse time than Ackman.

"Investors have become increasingly discriminating in their capital allocations, and the environment for launching a new fund continues to be extremely competitive."

2015 was a terrible year for hedge funds, and the data just became more alarming.

According to a new update from HFR, more hedge funds closed their door last year than at any time since the financial crisis. From China’s turbulence to oil’s slump, from the Swiss National Bank’s surprise currency decision to unpeg from the Euro, to just bad stock picking, plenty of reasons exist why 979 funds closed last year.

That’s a significant uptick from the 864 that shut down in 2014, according HFR.

But it doesn’t stop there. Last quarter, hedge fund launches hith their lowest level since 2009. Just 183 hedge funds opened in Q4 2015, down from 269 in the previous quarter.

Here’s the full breakdown from Hedge Fund Research to get your day started.

"If you're talking about public companies, buyer beware."

Investors looking for contact high need to learn a bit more about some big changes in the cannabis markets. The sector has become immensely profitable these days, but uncertainty continues to accelerate due to the lack of legalization from the Federal government.

Morgan Paxhia, co-founder and managing director at cannabis hedge fund Poseidon Asset Management says that investment in the sector requires “tremendous homework.”

Here’s a cheat sheet from U.S. News & World Report.

"The government seems willing to allow large, well capitalized alternative credit managers into China."

China’s distressed debt markets is now north of $600 billion.

Send in the Private Equity firms to save the day…

This is one of those stories with a predictable ending.

Click Bait of the Day

Sometimes, financial journalism is extremely lazy. 

Here is your daily example from MarketWatch.

"It doesn’t have the intent a dog has."  

Finally: This might be the argument that Artificial Intelligence isn’t coming along as fast as people thought. Sure, Google’s robot won a game of Go against a human…

And a Boston Dynamics robot was able to lift and stack boxes – leading many  to predict that human beings are doomed to be replaced by robots as soon as tomorrow (Jack Daniels encourages and invites you to drink to (or over) this news). 

Which means it might be one of those investments that you hear about for decades but they never quite come to fruition on a massive scale: Like water… or… gold?

We're finally back after a long winter's nap.

Drop me a note, and sound off at gb@alphapages.com


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