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Thursday, 5 October 2017

Hedge fund manager some call the next Warren Buffett owns nearly $1 billion of Puerto Rico's bonds

Seth Klarman, the value investing giant who draws comparisons to Warren Buffett, has a very large position in Puerto Rico's controversial debt.

Klarman's hedge fund, Baupost, owns $911 million of the island's bonds through Decagon Holdings entities, according to a July public court filing.

"The Baupost Group is a holder of COFINA bonds through the Decagon entities. Baupost regularly makes investments through subsidiary holding entities," Baupost spokeswoman Diana DeSocio wrote in an email.

COFINA stands for the Puerto Rico Sales Tax Financing Corp. that issues bonds.


Baupost has $30 billion of assets under management as of March 2017, according to the firm.

Klarman's fund has generated annual returns of 16.4 percent and $22.6 billion in net profit for clients since inception through 2015, according to a Morgan Creek Capital letter. Baupost's main fund posted a 'high single-digit' return last year.

The hedge fund manager has largely avoided controversy over his career and is often compared with Buffett for his disciplined investing philosophy and solid returns. As the political rhetoric heats up around what Wall Street is owed as Puerto Rico tries to recover from this tragedy, a negative spotlight could fall on owners of the controversial debt like Baupost.

That is likely something Klarman would not welcome since he is notoriously reclusive. He rarely appears publicly and used copies of his "Margin of Safety" investment book still sell for more than $700 online

Read? Hedge fund manager some call the next Warren Buffett owns nearly $1 billion of Puerto Rico's bonds

Klarman started with the three key underlying pillars of his investing approach:

1. Analyze the potential for loss before gain: "You want to focus on risk before you focus on returns. … A lot of it is focusing on multiple scenarios, what can go wrong? How much can you lose?"

2. Absolute over relative returns: "The world is oriented to relative performance. Everybody is an asset gatherer. ... By contrast we think wealthy individuals and established institutions because of their risk aversion are interested in absolute returns. If you're focused on absolute returns the idea of losing people's money becomes fairly abhorrent. … Your goal is not to lose less, your goal is to try to make money all the time, protect capital on the downside and still do well enough on the upside."

3. Forget macro investing, instead focus on individual investment ideas: "Most of the investment world has a top down orientation. They think about how is the economy going to do? And how are foreign currencies going to do? How are interest rates going to do?

 … My view is that is incredibly difficult to do. I don't know anybody with a really good long-term demonstrated record of success of macro forecasting."

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