Blackstone, Citadel, Lansdowne Gain as Rivals Falter in 2015

  • Blackstone's new hedge fund gained 23 percent so far this year
  • Citadel has posted double-digit gains every year since 2008

Good Year for Deals, Bad Year for Hedge Funds

Hedge fund managers have complained all year about a lack of liquidity and volatile markets in explaining some of the worst performance since the financial crisis.

Yet a handful of multibillion-dollar firms including Blackstone Group LP, D.E. Shaw, Millennium Partners and Citadel have managed to side-step those problems and post double-digit returns.

Fund Assets under managementJan.-Nov.
Blackstone Senfina$792 mln23%equity
Citadel main funds$15 bln12.6%multistrategy
Passport Special Opportunities$430 mln11.6%equity
Millennium Partners$34 bln11.1%multistrategy
D.E. Shaw Oculus$10.1 bln10.2%macro
Lansdowne Developed Markets Master Fund$12 bln16.2%equity
Marshall Wace Eureka Fund$8 bln11%equity
Source: fund documents, people familiar

Many of the big winners are firms that allocate money to multiple teams investing across a broad range of markets, with each group managing just a fraction of the total assets. This year’s biggest losers include managers with concentrated portfolios, who piled into the same equities -- Cheniere Energy Inc., Williams Cos., SunEdison Inc. and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. -- before they tumbled in the second half of the year.

“In 2015, a lot of the underperformance can be explained through crowding,” said Stan Altshuller, chief research officer at Novus Partners, which analyzes portfolio data for hedge funds and other investors. “Hedge funds represented almost half of the market cap of some of these companies.”

Multi-Team Funds

The top performer among the multiteam funds is Blackstone’s Senfina Advisors, which started with stock-focused managers in 2014. It has fewer than 10 teams managing money now, according to a person familiar with the fund. Tom Hill, vice chairman at Blackstone, said last year he expects the fund to run several billion dollars by the end of 2016.

Izzy Englander’s Millennium, which runs $34 billion over 180 teams, is on track to produce its third consecutive year of double-digit returns, performance that helped the firm attract a net $4.1 billion so far this year.

Citadel, run by Ken Griffin, hasn’t returned less than 11 percent a year since the financial crisis, when it lost 54 percent. Its teams manage money across credit, stocks, fixed income, macro, commodities and quantitative strategies.

Among hedge funds based in Europe, the $12 billion Lansdowne Developed Markets Master Fund, which seeks to profit from rising and falling shares, gained 16.2 percent in the first 11 months of the year, while the $8 billion Marshall Wace Eureka Fund returned about 11 percent, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The Global Financials Fund managed by $2.7 billion hedge-fund firm Algebris Investments (UK) LLP gained just over 22 percent, according to a company spokeswoman.

Overall, hedge funds have barely made money this year through November, and are heading for their worst performance since 2011, when they lost 5.2 percent. By comparison, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index returned 3 percent through November, intermediate U.S. Treasuries gained 2 percent and commodities, as measured by a Bloomberg index, have slumped 22 percent.

Some of the best known hedge fund managers have posted losses as bad or even worse than in 2008. David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital is poised for its second losing year in almost two decades after dropping about 21 percent through November. Bill Ackman told investors that 2015 is on track to be the worst year ever for his Pershing Square Capital Management, with a loss similar to Greenlight’s.

Some high-profile funds have closed this year as well, primarily from wrong-way currency bets, including macro funds run by Fortress Investment Group, Bain Capital and BlackRock Inc. Michael Platt’s Bluecrest Capital Management, once one of Europe’s biggest hedge funds, told clients this year it would return money and focus on managing Platt’s wealth and that of his employees.

Officials for the hedge fund firms declined to comment on performance.

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