The Morning Brief: Ackman’s Pershing Square Boosts YTD Gains

William Ackman’s Pershing Square fund gained 1.4 percent in November, boosting its return for the year to 10 percent, according to a Reuters report. In October the fund, managed by New York-based activist firm Pershing Square Capital Management, surged 7.9 percent. However, last month Ackman’s high profile short bet against Herbalife backfired when the stock rose nearly 8 percent.

Meanwhile, shares of Herbalife surged another 6.68 percent on Tuesday alone, closing at an all-time high of $76.65 on an otherwise down day on Wall Street. The stock is up 10 percent alone in the past two days. There is no apparent news, yet trading volume far exceeded the stock’s average in a typical day.

Daniel Och’s OZ Master Fund, managed by Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, rose 1.09 percent in November, lifting the multistrategy fund by 12.21 percent for the first 11 months of the year. The OZ Europe Master Fund rose 1.41 percent in November and 11.60 percent for the year, while the OZ Asia Master Fund climbed 2.04 percent for the month and 12.32 percent for the year. The New York-based hedge fund firm, one of the only publicly-traded hedge fund firms, said assets under management increased a net $700 million last month, to $39.2 billion, reflecting performance gains and new investments.

Shares of Apple surged 2.74 percent, to close at $566.32, after the company got a huge boost from UBS. The investment bank raised its rating on the stock to Buy from Neutral and raised its price target to $650 from $540, citing, in part, anticipation of an iPhone distribution deal with China Mobile. It also thinks Apple will benefit from being an “uncloud company,” mostly benefiting from SMAC technologies — a combination of social, mobile, analytics and cloud technology.

Kenneth Brody, co-founder of Taconic Capital Advisors, announced that he will retire from the New York-based multistrategy hedge fund firm as of January 1. The 70 year-old told investors he wants to spend more time working directly with non-profit organizations he has been supporting “that are concerned with the mental and physical well-being of young people.”

“This is the right time for me to step back and let the great team we have assembled at Taconic, led by Frank, to step up and take over,” he writes, referring to co-founder Frank Brosens.

About a year and a half years ago, Brody told me for a major feature story in Institutional Investor that his firm had a great, unique succession plan, but he declined to elaborate at the time. In the letter, he stresses that he and Brosens planned for this transition “over a considerable period of time.” Brody writes that Taconic has strengthened its investment teams in London and New York over the past few years and also has hired a team and opened an office in Hong Kong. Brosens will run the firm with CIO Chris Delong and will take over Brody’s risk management responsibilities.

Taconic manages $8.2 billion. The firm’s flagship Taconic Opportunity fund and its Taconic Opportunity Offshore fund gained about 13 percent through October after generating the same return for all of 2012. The funds have posted an 8.13 percent annualized return since their 1999 inception.

Jonathan Loflin, a one-time senior portfolio manager and partner of BlueMountain Capital Management, is the latest hire for Mariner Investment Group’s incubation platform. Loflin will run a global derivatives relative-value portfolio. Mariner created the multistrategy platform in April 2013 to be managed by experts in a variety of strategies. It previously appointed Peter van Dooijeweert, the former head of equity relative value trading at Citigroup, to manage a global equity volatility portfolio; Richard Rumble, the former head of global emerging market equity at Goldman Sachs & Co., to manage a global emerging market equity portfolio; and Eric Pellicciaro, former head of global rates investments at BlackRock, to manage a global macro portfolio on this new platform. At BlueMountain, Loflin launched and managed the BlueMountain Equity Alternatives Fund. Most recently, he managed a portfolio at Wells Fargo/Overland with Benn Eifert, who is also joining Loflin at Mariner.

Shares of Mondelez International rose 1.38 percent to $33.90 after its board of directors approved an increase of $1.7 billion in the company’s share repurchase program. The company is now authorized to repurchase up to $7.7 billion of stock through 2016. New York-based activist investor Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management, the fifth largest shareholder, has been pushing Monzelez to merge with PepsiCo’s snack business, assuming the soft drink giant agrees with the idea.