Hedge Funds Suffer Worst Outflows Since Financial Crisis Era

  • Clients pulled $15 billion in quarter, most since mid-2009
  • Paulson, Pershing Square, Viking Global had negative returns

Hedge funds suffered the worst withdrawals last quarter since the tail-end of the financial crisis as wild swings in stocks and commodities caused losses at some of the best-known firms.

Investors pulled a net $15 billion between January and March, reducing assets under management to $2.86 trillion from $2.9 trillion, Chicago-based Hedge Fund Research Inc. said Wednesday. The last time outflows were higher was in the second quarter of 2009, when $43 billion was redeemed.

Clients are redeeming after many hedge funds failed to protect them during market turmoil in the second half of last year and again at the start of 2016. Managers including John Paulson, Chase Coleman, Andreas Halvorsen, Ray Dalio and Bill Ackman posted losses in some of their funds last quarter, even as global stocks edged out a small gain with dividends reinvested.

Hedge funds following macro economic trends to bet across asset classes suffered $7.3 billion in outflows, while those betting on corporate events saw about $8.35 billion pulled out, the data showed. Fund managers speculating on the success or failure of mergers and acquisitions attracted $400 million.

Clients of Tudor Investment Corp. have asked to pull more than $1 billion from the hedge fund firm founded by billionaire Paul Tudor Jones after three years of lackluster returns. Tudor’s main BVI Global, a macro fund, fell 2.8 percent in the first quarter, according to an investor document. That follows gains of 1.4 percent in 2015 and 3.5 percent in 2014.

Goldman’s Cautions

Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC, the largest publicly traded U.S. hedge-fund manager, saw its assets fall by about $1 billion in March to $42 billion on April 1, according to a company filing. Och-Ziff had $47.5 billion under management at the end of 2014. The OZ Master Fund, the firm’s main multistrategy pool, lost an estimated 3.4 percent through March, according to the filing.

Hedge funds are bleeding cash just as Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Mike Siegel and UBS Group AG are advising clients to increase allocations to alternative money managers as a protection against volatile markets. Siegel, who oversees about $190 billion at the bank’s asset management unit said insurers should use hedge funds to diversify even after their recent declines.

Hedge funds lost an average 2.6 percent in the first two months of the year after a 1.1 percent loss in 2015, according to the HFRI Fund Weighted Composite Index. They recovered some losses in March as equities and commodities markets rallied.

But their correlation with market volatility has led to investors questioning their use as a shock absorber in a portfolio. The New York City’s pension fund for civil employees voted to exit its $1.5 billion portfolio last week, deciding that the loosely regulated investment pools didn’t perform well enough to justify the high charges. They typically charge investors a 2 percent management fee and keep a fifth of profits.

Paulson, Coleman

Paulson & Co.’s Advantage and Advantage Plus funds, which wager on companies going through corporate events including spinoffs and bankruptcies, tumbled 15 percent in the first quarter, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Halvorsen’s Viking Global lost 8.8 percent in the quarter, Coleman’s Tiger Global Management hedge fund lost about 22 percent, Dalio’s Pure Alpha fund tumbled 6.7 percent and Ackman’s activist hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management lost 25.6 percent.

Managers deciding to return capital to investors were responsible for some of the drop, HFR President Ken Heinz said in a statement. Michael Platt’s BlueCrest Capital Management, once one of Europe’s largest hedge funds, said in December that it would return money to its clients.

Hedge-fund shutdowns outnumbered startups last year for the first time since 2009, HFR said last month. There were 979 fund closures and 968 startups.

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