October 3, 2018 / 4:21 PM / 18 days ago

Sohn Conference: Hedge funds recommend Japanese equities, Germany's E.ON, selling AT&T debt

TEL AVIV, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Hedge fund managers recommended buying Japanese equities and shares in German utility E.ON , and shorting AT&T debt among their top investment picks at the Sohn investment conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

Aaron Stern, head of international investments at activist investor Fir Tree Partners, said E.ON was trading at a large discount to its peers at 11 times earnings because it has a “hodgepodge” of businesses.

However, he also noted that the company was selling off non-core businesses and swapping assets with RWE. That, he said, will leave E.ON as a pure-play power supplier.

“The share price can double over the next 24 months,” Stern said, adding that he thought it could reach close to 19 euros a share.

Seth Fischer, chief investment officer at Hong Kong-based Oasis Management, recommended buying Japanese equities, which he believes are “cheap by every metric”.

He said Oasis is engaged with Alpine Electronics, in which it owns a 10 percent stake, and was still fighting Alpine’s plans to sell itself to larger affiliate Alps Electric Co.

Oasis in May submitted proposals to Alpine that the company pay a special dividend of 325 yen per share to shareholders and appoint two independent directors to the board.

Fischer said he planned to meet the company next week in Tokyo and will meet with other shareholders next month to encourage them to vote against the planned sale unless Alps sweetens its offer.

On the debt side, U.S. hedge fund Olympic Peak Management founding partner Todd Westhus said he planned to short AT&T’s debt when the fund launches in January, citing increasing competition and high leverage that may ultimately lead to a credit rating downgrade.

A spokesperson for AT&T said the company expects to return to historical debt levels by the end of 2022 and will use cash after dividend payments to pay down debt.

In contrast to an exodus of financial firms from London because of uncertainty around Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, U.S. hedge fund Hudson Bay Capital expects to benefit from the regime change after having recently opened an office there.

Sander Gerber said that if and when Brexit occurs, there will be dislocation and companies will need to restructure themselves. “That opens up opportunities for real hedge funds to profit,” he told Reuters.

Gerber added that he holds a short position on automaker Tesla due to what he deemed the “unusual conduct” of the company’s CEO Elon Musk. He also noted that a number of employees have left Tesla. Tesla was not immediately available for comment.

Ionic Capital Management co-founder Bart Baum, meanwhile, recommended buying long dated U.S. dollar interest rate forwards in the belief that higher interest rates will lead to higher rate volatility. He said that the market was pricing in the opposite. (Additional reporting by Maiya Keidan in London and Sheila Dang in New York; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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