Third Point Is Latest Fund to Shed Its Apple Shares

Published on February 14, 2013
by John Paczkowski

Apple_stock_certificateAdd billionaire investor Dan Loeb to the list of hedge fund managers who have bailed on Apple recently.

Loeb’s Third Point Capital, which held 710,000 shares of Apple in the third quarter, unloaded them all in the fourth, according to a new SEC filing. The company is the latest in a rapidly extending conga line of hedge funds that divested their Apple holdings following a decline in the company’s share price.

Among the other money management outfits selling off their stakes in Apple: Lone Pine, which sold all of its 805,269 shares in the fourth quarter; Viking Global, which dumped its stake of 1,094,000; Eton Park Capital, which sold all 250,000 shares it held in the third quarter; and Omega Advisors and JANA Partners, which divested their stakes of 266,404 shares and 143,148 shares, respectively.

That’s a noteworthy exodus from Apple, which has long been a favorite hedge fund stomping ground. But as Ironfire Capital founder Eric Jackson pointed out, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given concerns around the “fiscal cliff” at the end of last year.

“All these reports coming out today are as of December 31st, and the holdings could have been sold weeks before that,” Jackson told AllThingsD. “It was only prudent to sell the biggest and most liquid company in the world days before the fiscal cliff deadline. These hedge funds knew if the politicians screwed up the fiscal cliff, other investors would sell their Apple shares as if it was the nearest ATM.”

And those funds all likely exited their positions with significant profits, having bought into Apple years earlier. So the exodus we’re seeing isn’t so much evidence of a loss of faith as it is of calculated fund management. Even now there are plenty of funds that retain positions in Apple and others that are raising them. David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital, which is currently sparring with Apple over its plan to eliminate preferred stock from the company charter, raised its holding to 1.3 million shares from 1.1 million shares. And Soros Fund Management more than doubled its stake in Apple in the fourth quarter, adding 99,118 shares. It now holds 183,976 shares total.

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