Opalesque Industry Updates - Appaloosa's David Tepper bet big on struggling banks early in 2009. His flagship fund's gain of 117 percent put him at the top of Bloomberg Markets' roster of best-performing hedge funds. |
David Tepper often throws a $20 bill on the floor when he's weighing a big investment with analysts at Appaloosa Management LP. "Would you pick that up?" Tepper, founder and president of Appaloosa, asks them. His point: The best trades can be like found money.
That was the case in early 2009, he says. Shares of banks such as Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. were collapsing on rumors they would be nationalized. On Feb 25, the US Treasury put out a white paper and a term sheet on its Web site for the government's Capital Assistance Program. They said the preferred stock the government was buying in the banks would be convertible to common shares at prices far above where they were trading - 37 percent higher in the case of Citigroup and 21 percent for Bank of America.
For Tepper, 52, that meant it was time to buy. "If the federal government was putting out this paper, they weren't going to nationalize the banks," he says. Second the conversion price of the preferred shares meant the bank stocks were seriously underpriced. "It was crazy," says Tepper, a Pittsburgh native. "In February and early March, people were in a panic.".
Appaloosa began scooping up bank-related securities - including common and preferred shares and junior subordinated debt. The Short Hills, New Jersey-based hedge fund firm bought into Bank of America, Citigroup, Fifth Third Bancorp and SunTrust Banks Inc. Tepper also bought the bonds of New York-based American International Group Inc, Frankfurt-based Commerzbank AG and London-based Lloyds Banking Group Plc, paying as little as a nickel on the dollar. As the stocks and bonds rose later in the year - Bank of America and Citigroup shares surged 330 percent and 223 percent from Feb 28 through September - Appaloosa made more than $1 billion...
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