May 15, 2013 / 7:51 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 2-More top hedge funds dropped Apple shares in 1st quarter

(Adds Goldman survey, Einhorn buying)

May 15 (Reuters) - One-time hedge fund darling Apple Inc was dropped by more well-known fund managers in the first quarter, including John Griffin and Chase Coleman.

Shares of Apple closed down $15.01, or 3.4 percent, at $428.85 on Wednesday. The shares have fallen almost 40 percent from their all-time peak of $705.07 in September.

Sales of Apple’s popular devices like the iPhone and iPad remain strong, but the company’s profit growth and margins have come under pressure from competitors as well as consumer preferences for lower-cost Apple offerings like the iPad mini.

Griffin’s Blue Ridge Capital exited a position of 530,000 shares in the first quarter, according to a filing the firm made with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday. Coleman’s Tiger Global Management sold 790,000 Apple shares in the quarter, leaving it with 260,000.

Also, David Tepper’s Appaloosa Management trimmed its Apple stake to 540,000 shares from almost 913,000 shares at the end of the fourth quarter. And Cliff Asness’s AQR Capital Management shaved its Apple stake by 29 percent to about 366,000 shares.

Apple had been the most popular stock holding for the past three years among top stock-picking hedge funds, according to a quarterly survey conducted by Goldman Sachs. But Apple slipped to third place at the end of 2012 - behind American International Group Inc and after funds reduced their holdings overall by 30 percent in the fourth quarter, Goldman said.

Still, some investors kept the faith. David Einhorn, who earlier this year pressured Apple to increase its dividend, nearly doubled his Greenlight Capital’s stake to 2.4 million shares in the first quarter.

And Adage Capital Management, founded by two former Harvard University endowment managers, roughly kept their holdings steady with 1.3 million shares.

The first-quarter moves followed substantial selling of Apple by leading funds in the fourth quarter, including Leon Cooperman’s Omega Advisors and Barry Rosenstein’s JANA Partners. (Reporting by Aaron Pressman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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