Top U.S. hedge funds divided over GM in first quarter

Thu May 15, 2014 7:51pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Top U.S. hedge fund managers had mixed feelings about General Motors in the first quarter as the automaker's shares fell 15.8 percent, with some increasing their holdings and others going so far as to sell their entire stakes.

John Paulson's Paulson Management LP increased its exposure to GM by 114.9 percent to 4 million shares and David Tepper's Appaloosa Management boosted its GM share figure by 58.7 percent to 7.9 million shares, regulatory filings showed on Thursday.

Not every big investor remained positive on GM. Barry Rosenstein's Jana Partners sold nearly all of its GM stake, cutting its holding by about 8 million shares to just 7,100 shares. And Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc decreased its share stake in GM by 25 percent to 30 million shares, while Leon Cooperman's Omega Advisors sold its entire stake of 1.05 million shares.

The consumer sector was also an area of active interest in the first quarter, with investments that included discount retailer Dollar General Corp and drug store operator Walgreen Co.

Omega opened a new stake of 1.7 million shares in Dollar General, while Jana increased its stake in Walgreen by 4.8 million shares to 12.1 million shares.

The quarterly disclosures of manager stock holdings, in what are known as 13F filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, are always intriguing for investors trying to divine a pattern in what savvy traders are selling and buying.

But relying on the filings to develop an investment strategy comes with some peril because the disclosures are backward looking and come out 45 days after the end of each quarter.

Still, the filings offer a glimpse into what hedge fund managers saw as opportunities to make money on the long side. The filings do not disclose short positions, bets that a stock will fall in price. As a result, the public filings do not always present a complete picture of a manager's stock holdings.

The following are some of the hot stocks and sectors in which hedge fund managers either took new positions or exited from in the first quarter.

HERBALIFE

Soros Fund Management LLC increased its exposure to Herbalife Ltd by 1.7 million shares to 4.9 million. That made the billionaire's family office the fifth-largest holder with 5 percent of the company.

Billionaire activist Carl Icahn increased its stake in Herbalife by 0.2 percent to 17 million shares as of March 31. Icahn's investment fund, which he uses to bet on stocks with his own money and money belonging to his publicly traded Icahn Enterprises, fell by 0.4 percent in the first three months of the year, according to an investment presentation released by Icahn Enterprises.

Icahn's down quarter meant he trailed the market, with the Standard & Poor's 500 Index returning 1.81 percent in the first quarter. His performance was hurt by a drop in the shares of Herbalife, which plunged by 27 percent in the first quarter. Icahn is the biggest shareholder in Herbalife, which hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman calls a pyramid scheme and has shorted in a big way.

COCA-COLA ENTERPRISES

Tiger Global Management LLC, led by Chase Coleman and Feroz Dewan, slashed its stake in soft drink producer and distributor Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc by 14.5 percent to 6.7 million shares.

YAHOO INC

Tiger Global Management sold its entire stake of 9 million shares in Yahoo Inc, while Daniel Loeb's Third Point LLC sold its total stake of 8 million shares.

JPMORGAN CHASE & CO

Omega Advisors increased its stake in JPMorgan Chase & Co by 1.6 million shares to 1.7 million shares in the first quarter. The bank's shares rose 3.8 percent in the quarter, compared with a 2.2 percent gain in the S&P financial index, which includes all financial shares in the benchmark S&P 500 stock index.

GROUPON INC

Jana Partners increased its stake in Groupon Inc's class A shares by 9.8 million shares to 40.8 million class A shares. Tiger Global Management got rid of its entire stake in the operator of a "deal-of-the-day" website.

AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP

Third Point opened a new stake of 2.7 million shares in American Airlines Group Inc.

APPLE INC

Icahn raised his holdings in Apple by 2.8 million shares to more than 7.5 million shares, increasing his bullish bet on the iPhone maker. But Loeb's Third Point sold its entire stake of 100,000 shares.

(Compiled by Jennifer Ablan; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Lisa Shumaker)

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