Friday, 29 April 2011

Syz’s Altin Zigs When Others Zag

ALTIN AG (LSE:AIA) (SWX:ALTN), the Swiss alternative investment company listed on the London and Swiss stock exchanges, discloses quarterly its entire hedge fund portfolio holdings as part of its policy of full transparency to investors initiated in 2009. Looking at the strategy allocation shifts of the fund of funds managed by Banque Syz makes an interesting contrast with the expressed biases of investors in hedge funds given in the Deutsche Bank Alternative Investment Survey.

Graphic 1. Net Allocation Plans by Strategy of Hedge Fund Investors

Source: 2011 Deutsche Bank Alternative Investment Survey

Asked in January this year, the respondents to the survey ranked as the top three strategies for receiving allocations of capital in 2011 as equity long/short, event driven and global macro. So it was striking that the Alternative Asset Advisors SA, the subsidiary of Syz that manages ALTIN AG, had acted in exactly the opposite way over the first three months of the year. As the fourth column in graphic 2 shows the largest reductions in strategy allocations made by 3A were in equity long/short, event driven and global macro.

Sometimes reductions in allocations in portfolios of hedge funds are effected through a passive route. That is as flows come in, net new subscriptions are allocated to preferred strategies, and the strategies or managers with sufficient allocations at that point are diluted. But ALTIN is a closed-ended investment company, so the capital available to invest changes with new capital raisings on the stock exchange and with leverage. There have been no capital raising (in fact shares in ALTIN AG have been bought back), and leverage at the portfolio level is broadly the same over the first three months of the year. So in this case the reductions in allocations to strategy are active decisions based on a number of possible factors. The factors are views on prospective returns at the strategy or individual hedge fund level, and (fund of funds) portfolio composition issues. That is reductions may be driven by bottom-up factors (marginally high allocations to a single fund that needs to be trimmed after very strong performance or changes at the firm), or driven at the highest level of management (portfolio level leverage as a function of hedge fund returns across all strategies), as well as at the intermediate level of strategy allocation. In this case the changes seem to have been made at the intermediate level because two funds have been added that invest using investment strategies that were not represented in the portfolio at year end.

Graphic 2. Breakdown of Capital by Investment Strategy of ALTIN AG

Source: Regulatory News Service of the London Stock Exchange

The two new funds are ZLP Offshore Utility Fund Ltd (an equity market-neutral fund) and Providence MBS Offshore Fund Ltd (a fund investing in mortgage backed securities (MBS), under Fixed Interest Strategy in table above). The first of the new funds is a sector specialist fund that adds value by the application of deep knowledge of one industry. The market-neutral fund, managed by Zimmer Lucas Capital of New York, should produce a return stream with a low correlation with traded markets. The managers of ALTIN know the managers of the fund very well – 3A were early backers of Zimmer Lucas Capital as far back as the year 2000.

The Providence MBS Offshore Fund Ltd is managed by Russell Jeffrey, founder of Providence Investment Management LLC of Providence RI. The $895m fund takes a relative value approach to residential MBS, and capitalizes on price dislocations in the agency MBS and related fixed income markets. The fund has a CAGR of 23.44 % since inception in 2004, and over the last 3 years it is ranked in the top 0.1% of all hedge funds for absolute returns.

The Deutsche Bank survey of investors in hedge funds showed no net interest in investing in either equity market-neutral or dedicated fixed income strategies in 2011. So it is not just in reductions in allocation to strategies that the managers of ALTIN zig when others zag, but also in new subscriptions to hedge fund investment strategies.

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