Hedge-fund manager John Paulson has more than a few advantages over the average investor — not the least of which is the apparent clout to approach Goldman Sachs (GS) and convince the bank to create a subprime mortgage product he could bet against at a later date.
The SEC is now investigating Goldman for its role in creating and selling that product – dubbed Abacus 2007-AC1 – while Paulson hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing. In the end, the Goldman episode may only go to further burnish Paulson’s reputation as a canny investor.
How can you get in on a piece of the Paulson action? Just as many retail investors eagerly follow Warren Buffett’s latest moves, Paulson fans can track his fund’s holdings online in quarterly SEC filings, as well as filings required whenever his fund becomes a ‘beneficial owner’ of a particular company by purchasing more than 5% of outstanding stock.
There is a raft of caveats, however. Timing is one. Beneficial ownership reports must be filed within 10 days of a purchase, but in digging through quarterly reports to the SEC, you’ll be weeks, if not months, behind. What’s more, those SEC forms don’t require disclosure of short positions.
Another issue: Some risk arbitrage plays can be kept confidential, further limiting the ability of individuals to realize hedge fund returns just by keeping an eye on public filings. As an individual investor, you should also be aware of how much risk is taken on by any fund you’re following. ‘Retail investors do not want to take the kind of risks that John Paulson takes,’ says Bruce Greenwald, a professor of finance and asset management at Columbia University’s School of Business.
Here’s a look at some sectors where Paulson has been active in the last few years – and how an individual investor would have done, if he’d followed along. (Paulson & Co. declined to comment for this story.)
Paulson & Co. started moving into beaten-down financial stocks in the fourth quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009. Depending on the exact timing of the trades, the moves were potentially very profitable. The fund first reported holding JPMorgan Chase (JPM) in the first quarter of 2009; since Jan. 2, 2009, the stock has gained nearly 50%. An investor who bought into the bank at a low in early March would have seen the stock rise about 94%. Paulson & Co.’s report for the second quarter of 2009 disclosed a position in Bank of America (BAC). The stock has risen more than 180% since April 1, 2009, the first trading day of the second quarter.
In this case, an individual following Paulson’s path would have done better with index investing. JPMorgan stock has risen nearly 25% since the date of Paulson & Co.’s first-quarter 2009 report to the SEC, but an investor buying into Bank of America on the date of the fund’s second-quarter report would only have seen gains of about 8.6%. The S&P 500 is up 34% since the fund’s first-quarter report in May and 19% since its August report.
How Midas is the Paulson touch? Recently, Paulson’s bullish views on gold prompted Propel Capital Corporation to enlist Paulson & Co. as an advisor in a planned IPO for its new Propel Multi-Strategy Fund. In advertising material promoting the fund, Propel played up its exposure to the SPDR Gold Trust ETF (GLD) and touted Paulson’s pro-gold position. (The IPO has been temporarily shelved, according to a Propel statement.)
Paulson & Co.’s first-quarter 2009 report disclosed a position in the SPDR gold ETF as well as AngloGold Ashanti (AU) and Gold Fields (GFI), two gold miners. Those investments have seen gains of about 30%, 44% and 39%, respectively, since Jan. 2, 2009. Again, getting in early was the key to seeing a real gold rush. An individual investor who bought into those gold plays on the date of Paulson & Co.’s first-quarter report would only have seen gains of about 22%, 5% and 3%, respectively.
Paulson & Co. also has been active on the M&A front. One high-profile bet was on the railroad Burlington Northern (BNI). The hedge fund first reported holding shares of Burlington in the fourth quarter of 2009 – the same quarter that Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) announced it was acquiring the railroad. The stock rallied immediately after the merger was announced. But individual investors following Paulson & Co. wouldn’t have been able to jump on the deal, since Paulson’s report disclosing its investment wasn’t filed until February 2010, on the same day the Berkshire deal closed.
Likewise, Paulson & Co. reported holding XTO Energy (XTO) in the fourth quarter of 2009 — the same quarter that Exxon Mobil (XOM) revealed it was buying the oil and gas exploration company. As in the Burlington case, XTO shares jumped following the merger announcement. But since Paulson’s fourth-quarter report wasn’t due until February 2010, individual investors looking for insight would have been too late to the party. XTO Energy’s stock is still trading; an investor who bought in mid-February 2010, after the hedge fund filed its report, would only have seen gains of about 5%.
Then there was the set of deals involving PepsiCo’s (PEP) bottling companies, Pepsi Bottling Group and Pepsiamericas. PepsiCo announced it had made acquisition offers on April 20, 2009, and reached merger agreements on Aug. 4. Paulson & Co. reported its stake in an August report on the second quarter. An investor buying Pepsi Bottling Group stock at the beginning of the second quarter – before the merger announcement – would have seen gains of 66% by the end of the year. But if the investor didn’t buy until after Paulson & Co. disclosed its position, he would have realized gains of less than 5% by the end of 2009.
Investors might see greater gains by following Paulson & Co.’s beneficial ownership reports – the forms filed 10 days after the fund acquires more than a 5% stake in a company. The stock of insurance company Conseco (CNO) has risen 17% since Paulson & Co. reported acquiring 9.9% of outstanding shares on Nov. 13. Since the hedge fund reported that it had acquired 6.18% of outstanding shares of Vail Resorts (MTN) on Dec. 31, those shares have gained 19%. Also on Dec. 31, the fund announced it had become a beneficial owner of Sunstone Hotel Investors (SHO) and SunTrust Banks (STI); those shares have since risen 38% and 43%, respectively. Bottom line: All of these Paulson investments outperformed the S&P 500, which is up just under 7% since Dec. 31.
与普通投资者相比，对冲基金经理鲍尔森(John Paulson)的优势多了不止一星半点，其中比较值得一提的要属他显然有能力接近高盛公司(Goldman Sachs)并说服这家银行推出一种他能在以后做空的次贷产品。
另一个问题是：一些风险套汇交易可以保密，进一步限制了个人通过公开文件了解对冲基金收益情况的能力。作为个人投资者，你还应当了解你追随的基金承担了多少风险。哥伦比亚大学商学院(Columbia University’s School of Business)金融及资产管理教授格林沃尔德(Bruce Greenwald)说，散户可不能承担鲍尔森承担的那种风险。
下面看一看过去几年鲍尔森在哪些市场比较活跃，以及如果个人投资者一直追随他的脚步成绩如何。（鲍尔森公司(Paulson & Co.)拒绝对本文置评。）
鲍尔森公司在2008年第四季度和2009年第一季度开始买入深受打击的金融股。取决于准确的交易时机，这一举动有可能非常盈利。2009年第一季度，这支基金首次报告持有摩根大通公司(JPMorgan Chase)的股份；自2009年1月2日以来，这支股票已上涨了近50%。如果投资者是在3月初的低点买入这家银行的股票，那它迄今应该上涨了94%左右。鲍尔森公司2009年第二季度的报告披露它持有美国银行(Bank of America)的股份。自4月1日（2009年第二季度的第一个交易日）以来，这支股票的涨幅已超过180%。
鲍尔森的点金术练得如何？近期，由于鲍尔森看好黄金，Propel Capital Corporation公司邀请鲍尔森公司作为其新的Propel多策略基金(Propel Multi-Strategy Fund)计划中的首次公开发行(IPO)的顾问公司。在宣传材料上，Propel公司大肆宣扬其持有SPDR Gold Trust ETF的敞口，并竭力称许鲍尔森看好黄金的立场。（据Propel公司声明称，该基金的IPO已被暂时搁置。）
鲍尔森公司在2009年第一季度的报告中披露了持有SPDR gold ETF基金及AngloGold Ashanti 和Gold Fields这两家金矿公司股票的情况。自2009年1月2日起，这些投资分别增长约30%、44%和39%。但尽早买入是从真正的黄金热中获利的关键所在。在鲍尔森公司第一季度报告公布之日起买入这些黄金股的投资者得到的收益仅分别为22%、5% 和3%左右。
鲍尔森公司在并购领域也很活跃，其押注Burlington Northern铁路公司的交易倍受瞩目。这支对冲基金于2009年第四季度首次报告持有Burlington公司的股份。同样是在第四季度，伯克希尔哈撒韦公司(Berkshire Hathaway Inc.)宣布正在收购这家铁路公司。并购消息宣布后，这家公司的股价立即大涨。但追随鲍尔森公司的个人投资者将无法从这项交易中获得好处，因为披露鲍尔森这项投资的报告直到2010年2月才予以公布。报告公布当天，伯克希尔公司也完成了这项交易。
同样，鲍尔森公司在2009年第四季度报告中公布持股XTO Energy公司，同期埃克森美孚公司(Exxon Mobil)也披露正在收购这家油气勘探公司。如同Burlington公司一样，XTO Energy公司股价在并购消息公布后大幅攀升。但由于鲍尔森公司的四季报直到2010年2月才发布，此时试图参透内幕的个人投资者要想参与其中可能已为时过晚。XTO Energy的股票至今仍在交易；在2010年2月中旬，即该对冲基金公布四季报之后方购入该股票的投资者，只有约5%的账面收益。
然后是与百事公司(PepsiCo)的两家灌瓶公司（Pepsi Bottling Group和Pepsiamericas）有关的一系列交易。百事公司宣布于2009年4月20日发出收购报价，并于8月4日达成并购协议。鲍尔森公司在8月份发布的第二季度报告中报告了持股情况。在二季度初，即并购宣布之前买入Pepsi Bottling Group公司股票的投资者，到2009年底有66%的账面收益。但在鲍尔森公司披露持股消息之后方才买入者，至2009年底的账面收益还不到5%。
投资者若在鲍尔森公司公布受益所有权报告后随即买入，或许收益会更大。该报告在基金公司收购某家公司超过5%的股权后10天内提交。鲍尔森公司报告于11月13日购买了保险公司Conseco公司9.9%的已发行股份，自报告后，该股已上涨17%。12月31日，这支对冲基金报告购买了Vail Resorts公司6.18%的已发行股份，该股自报告后上涨19%。同样是在12月31日，这支基金宣布成为Sunstone Hotel Investors公司和SunTrust Banks的受益所有人，自此之后，这两支股票分别上涨了38%和43%。而且，鲍尔森的这些投资均跑赢了标准普尔500指数。自12月31日以来，标准普尔500指数仅上涨了不到7%。