Starboard stock picks show rise in bets made by other activists

(Reuters) - Starboard Value LP’s quarterly filing on Monday showed more companies in its portfolio under takeover pressure from other activist investors.

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The New York hedge fund, led by Jeffrey Smith, is known for shaking up boards and pushing companies into mergers and acquisitions, as it did with Internet pioneer Yahoo Inc YHOO.O earlier this year.

Starboard’s regulatory filing showed that it’s also willing to let other activists do the agitating.

Four of Starboard’s new investments in the third quarter - all small positions ranging from $8 million to $16 million - were targets of other activist investors pushing the companies into a sale.

One was outdoor retailer Cabelas Inc CAB.N, which put itself on the auction block last year after pressure from Elliott Associates. Last month, Cabelas agreed to be bought by Bass Pro Shops.

Starboard also bought shares last quarter in another Elliott target, cyber security company Imperva Inc. IMPV.N. Imperva sought to hire an investment bank to seek a sale earlier this year, Reuters previously reported, though no deal has surfaced yet..

Starboard is also a new investor in Fiesta Restaurant Group Inc. FRGI.O, which is under pressure to sell itself from activist JCP Investment Management.

“They have the expertise and believe in the strategy, so it makes sense that Starboard would invest in other activist engagements,” said Ken Squire, founder of 13D Monitor and the 13D Activist fund, which tracks activist investors.

Investing in companies under pressure from activists or acquirers is not new to Smith. Before Starboard agitated at Yahoo, for example, activists Third Point and Carl Icahn had taken a crack at the company.

Starboard’s latest uptick in so-called “event driven” stocks comes after Starboard’s hiring of William Wyatt in March 2015. Wyatt came from hedge fund Empyrean Capital and joined Starboard with the remit of allocating more money toward event driven situations such as mergers, according to people familiar with the matter. Starboard declined to comment for the story.

Another activist target that Starboard bought into during the quarter was Tronc Inc. TRNC.O, the media company that successfully fended off a hostile takeover from newspaper group Gannett Co Inc. GCI.N. The activist publicly pushing Tronc to seal the deal was not Smith but HG Vora Capital Management.

Starboard's largest new position during the quarter was a $124.7 million stake in software company Hewlett-Packard Enterprise HPE.N, according to the filing.

Reporting by Michael Flaherty; Editing by Nick Zieminski