Hedge Funds and Tech Stocks: Dump the Old, Embrace the New

Chip stocks and cable are yesterday’s news, unless they’re merging. Hedge funds crave software and Internet plays. How mature is Apple?


Apple has been one of the big favorites among the hedge fund set for several years now. And it still enjoys the largest dollar support among all tech, media and telecom, or TMT, stocks, with more than $22 billion of hedge fund capital invested in the maker of the iPhones and iPads at the end of the second quarter. This sizable number isn’t surprising, given that Apple has the largest market capitalization of all stocks.

However, if you dig down a bit, Cupertino, California–based Apple is not so wildly popular among the hedge fund set as this aggregate position may indicate.

For one thing, the $22 billion only works out to a little more than 3 percent of Apple’s total market value. In fact, only ten hedge funds made new investments in Apple in the second quarter, although an additional 79 added to existing positions. And 21 funds fully exited the stock.

In fact, a total of 111 TMT companies received more new investors in the quarter ending June 30 than did Apple, according to an analysis created for Institutional Investor by New York–based Novus, a research and analytics firm. Novus ranks TMT stocks that were recipients of the largest number of new hedge fund investors, as well as stocks that suffered the largest number of full exits by hedge funds at the end of the second quarter.

The ranking provides a kind of map to hedge fund interest in various kinds of tech stocks during a stretch immediately preceding a month of great market stress. This analysis of hedge fund holdings in tech is the third part of a four-part series.

Also from this series:

A large number of top ten firms that received the most new investors were involved in some sort of merger deal or spin-off. This underscores the huge consolidation that the TMT world is undergoing.

Hedge funds that mostly specialize in event-driven and long-short strategies are among those that aggressively moved into these stocks in the second quarter.

However, many of the victims of larger exits read like a Who’s Who of yesterday’s winners, including AOL, Micron Technology, Applied Materials and Yahoo.

Two companies that were the two biggest recipients of new investors — Broadcom, the Irvine, California, maker of chips for the wireless industry, and New York cable giant Time Warner Cable — also ranked among the ten firms that saw the greatest number of hedge funds exiting their stocks.

That’s because they are both, at least in part, arbitrage investments in that the two companies are currently involved in mergers that haven’t yet closed. In May Broadcom agreed to be acquired by San Jose, California– and Singapore-based Avago Technologies in a cash and stock deal. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016. Avago is tied for seventh among those firms with the largest number of new investors.

Also in May, Time Warner Cable announced its merger with St. Louis–based Charter Communications in a cash and stock deal. Charter, in turn, ties for No. 10 among companies with the most new investors.

Altera Corp., headquartered in Roseland, New Jersey, the recipient of the fourth-largest number of new hedge fund investors in the second quarter, with 29, is also an arbitrage play. The chipmaker agreed to be acquired on June 1 by Santa Clara, California–based Intel Corp.

One prominent long-short manager who gravitates to TMT stocks notes that a number of these high-profile companies, such as chipmakers, operate in yesterday’s technology or media, whereas many investors move into new software and Internet-driven companies.

Companies such as Charter and Time Warner Cable are deemed by some to be casualties of the trend among younger Americans of watching movies and TV on tablets, computers, phones and other devices at the expense of pricey cable packages. But many hedge funds are playing these stocks as merger, consolidation plays. Others see them as big beneficiaries of the expanding demand for broadband services, thanks to the surge in popularity in Netflix and other broadband guzzlers.

In any case, altogether 47 hedge funds initiated investments in Broadcom in the second quarter, whereas 24 fully bailed on the stock. Nearly the latter number of funds added as subtracted from existing positions.

Among the largest new investors in the stock (in order of investment size): Pentwater Capital Management, the Evanston, Illinois, event-driven firm started by former Deephaven Capital Management trader Matthew Halbower; San Francisco–based Farallon Capital Management, headed by Andrew Spokes; Philippe Laffont’s New York–based Coatue Management; John Paulson’s New York–based Paulson & Co.; Jamie Dinan’s New York–based York Capital Management Global Advisors; and Frank Brosens’ New York–based Taconic Capital Advisors.

Among those that completely exited the stock: O. Andreas Halvorsen’s Greenwich, Connecticut–based Viking Global Investors and Jason Karp’s New York–based Tourbillon Capital Partners.

Since the end of the second quarter, the stock has been up a little more than 1 percent, clearly weathering the market storm. During the same period, the Standard & Poor’s 500 has been down nearly 6 percent.

Time Warner Cable welcomed 37 new hedge funds but said good-bye to 24. What’s more, just slightly more shareholders reduced their position as added to existing stakes. The company’s biggest new shareholders included New York–based Senator Investment Group, headed by Douglas Silverman and Alexander Klabin; Barry Rosenstein’s New York–based Jana Partners; Farallon; and Robert Citrone’s Norwalk, Connecticut–based Discovery Capital Management.

Those that fully bailed on the stock were led by New York–based Glenview Capital Management, headed by Larry Robbins.

The sixth-largest recipient of new money was San Jose, California–based online auction company eBay, which also was partially an arbitrage play, since it was spinning off its PayPal unit, completed in mid-July. Dmitry Balyasny’s Chicago-based Balyasny Asset Management and Coatue were the two largest new investors, with the former counting the company as its fifth-largest position now.

Two other companies with the most new investors are targets of activists or industry rivals, notably cell phone provider T-Mobile, a unit of Bonn, Germany–based Deutsche Telekom, and San Diego’s wireless telecom giant Qualcomm.

Of those companies not currently involved in a pending merger, the biggest recipients of new investors are companies offering newer types of technology.

For example, San Francisco cloud computer company Salesforce.com had 31 new investors, versus just six fully exiting. The largest new investors are Coatue and James Simons’ East Setauket, New York–based Renaissance Technologies. However, the largest wagers in the stock in the second quarter were made by a number of firms that previously had tiny stakes, including Kenneth Griffin’s Chicago-based Citadel, Israel Englander’s New York–based Millennium Management and Balyasny.

Salesforce stock mostly broke even after the end of June, thanks in large part to a surge in its price on Tuesday.

San Francisco’s Fitbit, which makes wearable devices that monitor physical activity and sleep patterns, ranks fifth, with 28 new investors. It only went public on June 17 at $20 per share. Its stock ended the second quarter at $38.23 and peaked at a little more than $51, before tumbling roughly 40 percent in the market sell-off. On Tuesday the stock rebounded by more than 11 percent, thanks to an upgrade from Morgan Stanley. Its largest investor is New York–based Blue Ridge Capital, headed by Tiger Cub John Griffin.

Other top holders have small positions in the stock relative to their respective portfolios: New York–based Tiger Global Management, founded by Charles (“Chase”) Coleman III, and Daniel Benton’s Rye Brook, New York–based Andor Capital Management.

Next week we’ll look at the surge in hedge fund investments of private tech and Internet companies.