Longtime Valeant Investor Sequoia Fund Exits After Losses

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  • Holding ‘badly penalized our results’ in 2016, committee says
  • Battered drug stock was biggest position at start of the year

Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb, manager of the Sequoia Fund and once the largest shareholder in Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., said the $4.8 billion mutual fund exited that investment last month after losses.

Valeant, which once accounted for more than 30 percent of the Sequoia portfolio, was no longer a holding by mid-June, the firm told investors Tuesday.

“Valeant was our largest position to start the year and its 80 percent decline through June 30 badly penalized our results,” according to a letter signed by the fund’s investment committee, including Ruane Cunniff Chief Executive Officer David Poppe.

Poppe in March replaced Robert Goldfarb, who retired after Valeant’s stock plunge last year led the fund to a 7.3 percent loss that spurred redemptions. The losses capped a 45-year investing career for Goldfarb at the fund that traces its roots to billionaire Warren Buffett. Valeant, a former high-flier that the fund first bought in 2010, became a target of short-sellers last year over its sales practices and acquisition strategy.

Sequoia’s slump continued in 2016. The fund lost more than 13 percent in the first half of the year, compared with a 3.8 percent return for the S&P 500 Index. Absent Valeant, the portfolio would have gained 2.3 percent through June, the committee said.

The fund reduced its number of holdings to 29 stocks at midyear from 38 at the start of 2016, exiting positions including diagnostics firm Idexx Laboratories Inc., drugmaker Allergan Plc and outdoor retailer Cabela’s Inc.

Sequoia reopened to new direct investors in April. It’s working with financial-services firms including Vanguard Group, Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab Corp. to offer the fund again to their clients, according to the letter.