Hedge funds raise bets on Citigroup, financials

NEW YORK Mon Feb 14, 2011 6:36pm EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. investment bank Citigroup Inc (C.N) gained a big following with hedge fund managers at the end of last year, as well-known investors like Appaloosa Management's David Tepper and Eton Park's Eric Mindich piled into the stock.

Tepper, who made billions over the past year betting that the U.S. government would make good on its promises to support major financial institutions, more than doubled his stake in Citigroup according to the fund's fourth-quarter filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday.

The Short Hills, New Jersey-based fund manager raised his stake by 129 percent to about 117.5 million shares according to the filings. His stake in Citigroup is worth about Mindich, who runs the $12 billion hedge fund Eton Park Capital Management, also raised his stake in Citigroup to 80.5 million shares from 60.5 mln shares at the end of the third quarter, according to the filings.

Several managers also took new positions in the stock, according to the filings.

Philippe Laffont, who got his start investing at Julian Robertson's Tiger Management, also disclosed a big stake in the investment bank. Laffont's Coatue Management bought more than 20 million shares in Citigroup, according to his fourth-quarter SEC filing.

And other financial stocks also got some additional attention from the fund managers. Mindich also raised his holdings in JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) to 8.4 million shares from 7.4 million, while Tepper also slightly raised his bet on Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), according to the filings.

The Citigroup bet appears to be paying off already for many of the fund managers.

The U.S. Treasury pumped a total of $45 billion into Citigroup under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) over 2008 and 2009, but Citigroup has spent the past year recovering from the massive losses it saw during the financial crisis.

Citigroup shares are up about 46 percent from a year ago, and have made sharp gains since November.

Chief Executive Vikram Pandit pledged in early 2009 to take a $1 salary until his company recovered from the financial crisis to sustained profitability. Last month, Citigroup's board said he had achieved that goal and gave him a $1,749,999 raise for 2011.

The latest hedge fund positions were disclosed in quarterly 13-F filings where Large investors are required to report their holdings of U.S.-listed securities at the end of each quarter, and their holdings may have changed since the end of last year.

Citigroup shares closed at $4.91, on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.

(Reporting by Emily Chasan, additional reporting by Aaron Pressman in Boston)

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