Australian hedge fund bags 74% gain on millennials and iron

Image courtesy of Fortescue Metals Group

Millennials’ shopping habits have helped fuel hefty gains at an Australian hedge fund this year.

Regal Funds Management Pty’s Atlantic Absolute Return Fund shot up 74% through May, boosted by winning bets on buy-now, pay-later service Zip Co., and iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., according to its newsletter.

The out-sized gains stand in contrast to many global active money managers, who have adopted a cautious approach amid the escalating U.S.-China trade war and slowing economic growth, missing out on steep rallies. The Eurekahedge Hedge Fund Index gained 3.9% in the first five months of the year, half the advance of the MSCI World Index.

In contrast, the A$266 million ($183 million) Atlantic Absolute Return Fund has taken a punchier approach: it had net exposure — the difference between the value of its bullish and bearish bets — of 174%, according to the newsletter.

While Australia’s stock market is one of the world’s best-performing this year, and is nearing a record high, Regal’s Chief Investment Officer Philip King sees further gains ahead. The central bank this month cut interest rates for the first time in almost three years, and has signaled more to come.

“Most people expect to see continuing rate cuts in Australia,” King said in an interview. “I think that’s going to be very supportive for equities.”

Among Regal’s winning bets were:

Zip Co.

Services like Zip, which allow people to buy goods and pay for them in installments, are benefiting from the shopping habits of young people, many of whom don’t have credit cards, and the growing popularity of online shopping, King said. Regal has been a long-time holder in Zip, and has added to its stake along the way, including during a March capital raising.

The shares have more than doubled this year, outperforming rival Afterpay Touch Group Ltd., which earlier this month was ordered to appoint an external auditor to examine its compliance with anti-money laundering rules.

Among Regal's top picks were Appen, Zip and Fortescue Metals

Fortescue Metals

In mining, King prefers iron ore producers, picking Fortescue Metals as his favorite. Companies like Fortescue will see “extremely strong” profits after a fatal dam disaster at a Vale SA site triggered a series of mine closures in Brazil that curbed global supply and pushed iron ore prices to a five-year high.

“One of the things we really like in the mining sector at the moment is that large companies like Fortescue are returning cash to shareholders, and not investing in new capacity,” King said. “After a lot of criticisms about wasting money on large acquisitions at the top of the last cycle, they listened to their shareholders.”

Appen Ltd.

One of the top five gainers in Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index this year, the tech company’s shares have more than doubled.

“Appen is benefiting from the big move towards artificial intelligence and is a leader in machine learning,” King said. “Its client base is a who’s who in the technology sector.”

(By Bei Hu)

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