(Corrects manager of Tiger Management LLC to Julian Robertson
from Chase Coleman in 15th paragraph)
By Aaron Pressman
BOSTON Feb 14 Some of the biggest hedge funds
that helped make Apple Inc a stock market darling lost
faith and dumped their stakes in the fourth quarter, fueling the
massive drop in the iPhone maker's share price.
Noted stock pickers including Leon Cooperman and Thomas
Steyer unloaded billions of dollars of Apple shares between
Sept. 30 and Dec. 31, according to disclosure documents filed on
Shares of Apple rose to an all-time high of $705.07 on Sept.
21 but ended 2012 down more than 24 percent from that peak, as
concerns about increasing competition and declining profit
The fourth-quarter sellers avoided even deeper losses.
Apple's shares have lost 12 percent so far this year. The shares
gained $1.95, or 0.4 percent, to $468.96 on the Nasdaq on
Cooperman's Omega Advisors fund dumped its entire stake of
more than 266,000 shares during the fourth quarter, according to
its required quarterly disclosure form filed with the Securities
and Exchange Commission.
Farallon Capital, the hedge fund founded by Steyer, sold
137,000 shares. Steyer, who once worked on the Goldman Sachs
risk arbitrage desk, stepped down at the end of the year from
the firm, which he founded in 1986.
Jana Partners, an activist fund run by Barry Rosenstein,
also unloaded its entire Apple stake of more than 143,000
Despite Apple's stock price plunge, most of the managers
likely exited their positions with substantial profits because
they bought years earlier.
Rosenstein and Cooperman, for example, both started
gathering their stakes in the middle 2010, at a time when Apple
shares traded below $300.
At the time, the company's iPhone 4 was beset by alleged
faulty reception, a problem that became known as "antennagate."
Apple's then-chief executive, the late Steve Jobs, famously
dismissed the issue, saying "we don't think we have a problem."
But Apple offered customers a free bumper case that was supposed
to minimize any issues.
Customers did not seem to care, snapping up millions of
iPhones and sending Apple's share price up almost 50 percent
over the next year.
Apple has come under further scrutiny, this time from
prominent hedge fund manager David Einhorn, who said on Feb. 7
that he was suing the company to get it to deploy its $137
billion cash pile more effectively and halt a 35 percent drop in
its share price from the record high in September. Einhorn's
fund, Greenlight Capital, has a stake in the company worth about
$600 million. Greenlight's regulatory filings are to be released
later today. ]
Not all well-known hedge fund fans of Apple cut ties in the
fourth quarter. Some only trimmed their holdings.
Philippe Laffont, who worked under famed hedge fund manager
Julian Robertson before striking out on his own at Coatue
Management, sold about 18 percent of his Apple shares. Coatue
ended the year with a still sizable 643,000 shares.
Robertson's own Tiger Management LLC fund trimmed its Apple
stake by 28 percent to about 42,000 shares.
Large hedge funds are required to disclose their U.S. stock
holdings within 45 days after the end of each quarter.
But the filings may not give a complete picture of each
fund's moves, since only U.S.-listed shares and options must be
revealed. Bonds, foreign shares and derivatives are not
included, and short positions, or bets that a stock will fall in
price, are not listed.
(Reporting by Aaron Pressman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)