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Morning Brief: Activist Positions Boost JANA in January

Barry Rosenstein’s firm posted gains last month in its best January performance in five years.

Barry Rosenstein’s JANA Partners got off to a good start this year. The firm’s flagship JANA Partners fund gained 2.3 percent in January, while JANA Nirvana rose 3.3 percent. Even so, the activist firm fell way short of the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index, which posted a very strong 5.7 percent total return in January. Still, it was JANA’s best January performance since 2013. The hedge fund firm was led last month by several high-profile activist positions.

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Greg Coffey is coming out of retirement. The one-time star of GLG Partners has raised about $1 billion for a new hedge fund called Kirkoswald, according to Businessinsider.com. Australian-born Coffey walked away from hundreds of millions of dollars when he left GLG in 2008 with hopes of launching his own hedge fund. However, the huge market selloff and global financial crisis got in the way of those plans. He retired from the business altogether in 2012 at the age of 41 after a failed stint at Louis Bacon’s Moore Capital Management. Coffey qualified for Alpha’s Rich List on one occasion, after making about $300 million in 2007. However, that only enabled him to rank number 31 that year. Coffey was the best performer at GLG after joining the firm in 2003 following a stint with George Soros. His emerging markets portfolio returned 100 percent in 2005, 60 percent in 2006, and 50 percent in 2007.

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Keith Meister’s Corvex Management LP nominated four individuals to the board of Energen. In a regulatory filing, the activist hedge fund firm, which is the largest shareholder of the oil and gas exploration and production company with 9.9 percent of the shares, said each of the nominees has significant experience with energy and industrial companies.

Among the four: Vincent Intrieri, former senior managing director of Icahn Capital LP, Meister’s previous employer. The other three nominees are José Alapont, former president and CEO of Federal-Mogul Corporation, a long-time major holding of Carl Icahn; Jonathan Cohen, founder of Atlas Energy and Atlas Pipeline Partners; and Daniel Herz, former senior vice president of Atlas Energy and Atlas Pipeline Partners.

“Energen has a world-class leasehold position in the core of the Permian Basin, but for years, has traded at what we believe is a material discount to its underlying value,” said Meister, in a press release.

In response, Energen said in a press release it welcomes dialogue with shareholders, acknowledging that its board and management have spoken with Corvex numerous times over the past few months. “The Board welcomes fresh perspectives and has added four new independent directors over the last two years and seven new independent directors over the last five years,” it added. Energen also stressed that since Corvex initially invested in Energen in March 2017, the hedge fund firm has pushed “a singularly-focused agenda to sell the company regardless of market conditions and the Company’s continued improving performance.”

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Surveyor Capital, a unit of Ken Griffin’s Citadel, co-led a $60 million Series B financing of AVROBIO, a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing therapies for rare diseases, according to an announcement from the company. It plans to use the proceeds from the financing to advance multiple gene therapies from AVROBIO’s lentiviral platform.

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Shares of Google parent (and hedge fund favorite) Alphabet were down around 4 percent in after-hours trading after the search giant reported mixed quarterly results. It beat analyst expectations for revenues — which rose 24 percent — but came up short on the earnings side.

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