We’re already hearing a lot about the losers from the subprime mess. The Bear Stearns funds, of course. Then there’s Basis Capital in Australia. Now we have Sowood Capital, who on Monday sent a letter to their investors explaining the decision to sell the funds’ portfolio to Citadel.
But Gary Vaughan-Smith, the former head of the Alternative Investment Group at ABN Amro who earlier this year set up SilverStreet Capital, points out that asset-backed strategies form a pretty small part of the hedge fund world: “In aggregate, I expect when the dust settles we’ll find hedge funds will have made money out of it. Hedge funds will win more than they lose.”
A fund run by Paulson rose nearly 40 per cent in June on the back of bets against subprime mortgages - and other funds reported to have made hay from the collapse are Hayman Capital and Corriente Advisors, plus San Francisco-based Passport Capital.
Not that Vaughan-Smith is minimising the scale of the fallout from subprime. Far from it.
“This is real,” he says, “not a financial dislocation.” SilverStreet estimate that defaults in subprime could reach $130bn, a figure that Vaughan-Smith thinks is vulnerable on the upside.
Their chart shows about $800bn of sub-prime mortgages still in the pipeline to “reset” - or to jump from the two-year teaser rate to a higher long-term interest rate.
One group he notes that are benefiting from the wider impact of the problems are the event-driven funds.
Data from Barron’s shows that as difficulties surrounding financing for buy-outs have increased, the spreads for merger arbs have widened. Annualised returns on some takeover stocks have increased to 20 per cent and above, as the market has priced in the greater uncertainty of deals reaching completion.
There will be more, we hear, on winners (and losers) from the subprime mess later on FT.com.