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Hedge Fund News: Leon Cooperman, Doug Silverman, Hess Corp. (HES)

OMEGA ADVISORSLeon Cooperman Harvests Gains (Institutional Investor’s Alpha)
Leon Cooperman’s bullishness continues to pay off. The founder of Omega Advisors posted a gain of about 9 percent in the first quarter, following a remarkable winning streak in 2012. Last year the firm’s investments surged between 27 percent and 28 percent in returns (depending on the client). The New York–based firm was one of the best-performing hedge fund managers last year, and the same is true this year so far. Omega Advisors outflanked David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital, which late Thursday posted a 5.8 percent gain for the period.

Airline Returns Refute Buffett Aversion to U.S. Carriers (Bloomberg)
U.S. airlines, shunned by Warren Buffett for almost 25 years, are now rewarding investors with the biggest returns in more than a decade. The Bloomberg U.S. Airlines Index of 10 carriers surged 35 percent in the first quarter, the best start to a year since at least 1999. Wall Street projects that gains are just beginning for Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) and US Airways Group Inc. (LCC), with both rated higher on average by analysts than 92 percent of U.S. companies, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Activist hedge fund Jana accuses Agrium of buying votes in proxy fight (Times Colonist)
Agrium says it will pay a fee to brokers and investment advisers whose clients side with the fertilizer giant in a nasty proxy battle, which is likely to be resolved by shareholder vote next Tuesday. But Jana Partners LLC, the New York activist hedge fund looking to install five directors to Agrium’s board, says the move is the company’s attempt at “vote buying.” However, Agrium calls Jana’s accusations “baseless.” It says enlisting the help of a dealer solicitation group is a common practice and there’s nothing untoward about it.

Hess Sells $2B-Worth Of Russian Assets As Hedge Fund Billionaire Paul Singer Lurks In The Background (Forbes)
Hess announced on Monday it is selling its Russian subsidiary Samara-Nafta to Lukoil, expecting to pocket $1.8 billion from the transaction. The sale is at the center of several interesting narratives including hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer’s activism in an attempt to break up the company, and implications of Hess being complicit with Russian mob organization Indeitsy, a story broken by Forbes last year.

Sasco Said to Hire Ex-Dublin Hill’s Joe Howley (Bloomberg)
Sasco Energy Partners LLC (SACO), the $650 million commodity trading adviser, has hired Joe Howley, who shelved plans last year to start his own hedge fund after the death of his business partner Richard Ruzika, according to a person familiar with the matter. Howley, 53, will start immediately as a partner at Sasco, which is focused on North American natural gas and was founded in 2008 by Todd Esse and Thomas Purdy, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Howley will trade, assist with risk management and help develop personnel, the person said.

U.S. hedge fund defends manager as probe moves closer to founder (
Steven Cohen did something unusual when Michael Steinberg was arrested on Friday morning and accused of insider trading at Cohen’s $15 billion (U.S.) hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors. Within an hour of the accusations, SAC issued a statement defending the 16-year veteran of the Stamford, Conn.-based firm. It was the first time SAC had come out publicly in support of an employee who had been charged in the government’s wide- ranging investigation of insider trading.

Hedge fund bets big on this paper company (MarketWatch)
Senator Investment Group, a hedge fund managed by Doug Silverman, has disclosed a position of over 23 million shares in International Paper IP. This gives the fund 5.2% of the total shares outstanding of the $21 billion market cap manufacturer of paper and packaging products. We track 13F filings from funds such as Senator as part of our work researching investment strategies (we have found, for example, that the most popular small cap stocks among hedge funds earn an average excess return of 18 percentage points per year), and so we can see that at the beginning of January Silverman and his team only owned 4.2 million shares of the stock as well as 3.5 million call options.

TCI, Thélème Vet Amin To Start Hedge Fund (FINalternatives)
Snehal Amin is on the move again. The former head of U.S. research at The Children’s Investment Fund who moved in 2010 to Thélème Partners, the hedge fund set up by TCI co-founder Patrick Degorce, is following in Degorce’s footsteps and launching a hedge fund of his own. His last day at London-based Thélème was Friday, the Financial Times reports.

Lear agreement expands stock buyback, keeps hedge fund picks off board (Crain’s Detroit Business)
In the midst of a proxy fight with activist investors, Lear Corp. announced Monday an agreement with shareholders Marcato Capital Management LLC and Oskie Capital Management LLC to expand a stock buyback and keep the hedge funds’ nominees off Lear’s board. Under the deal, Southfield-based Lear will further accelerate its current $1 billion share repurchase program, buying back $800 million in stock over the next 12 months and starting a new $750 million share repurchase program over three years following the completion of the current plan.

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