Ryland Group Inc (RYL), Astoria Financial Corp (AF): Two Stocks Ken Griffin is Bullish On

Ken Griffin‘s Citadel Investment Group has recently raised its passive stakes in two companies from its equity portfolio, as its latest filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed. The first company is Ryland Group Inc (NYSE:RYL), in which Citadel raised its exposure to around 2.37 million shares, from 1.79 million shares. Another company is Astoria Financial Corp (NYSE:AF), in which the stake has been changed even more drastically as it was increased to 5.04 million shares from some 2.15 million shares. Following the changes, the investor owns 5.1% of Ryland Group and 5.0% of Astoria Financial.


Mr. Griffin achieved great success managing Citadel after starting with only $5 million in assets under management. The main strategy used by the investor involves different quantitative and technology-based methods for picking stocks. The fund had a good run over the years, but it lost 55% during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. However, Mr. Griffin managed to recover by posting impressive returns in the consecutive years. In this way, currently, Citadel is one of the largest hedge funds, with an equity portfolio valued at $79.77 billion as of the end of September, while Mr. Griffin, with a net worth of $5.5 billion, is one of the richest self-made billionaires.

Lately, Mr. Griffin has been buying shares of companies that lost value over the last several months. Earlier this month, Citadel disclosed raising its stake in Bonanza Creek Energy Inc (NYSE:BCEI) to 2.35 million shares (5.7% of the company). The stock of Bonanza lost over 45% over the last 52 weeks. C&J Energy Services Inc (NYSE:CJES) and Francesca’s Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:FRAN), are two other companies on which Mr. Griffin has been bullish lately, while their stocks lost 50% and 20% respectively.

Ryland Group Inc (NYSE:RYL) and Astoria Financial Corp (NYSE:AF) are no exception to the strategy adopted lately by Citadel, as their stocks have also been losing ground lately. Ryland Group declined by 16% over the last 52 weeks. However, Citadel has been a long-term shareholder of Ryland, while the stock has doubled in value over the last three years alone. Ryland Group Inc (NYSE:RYL) is a homebuilder and a mortgage-finance company and since the beginning of the year, it has already announced several new communities and projects across its focus regions in the Northern, Southern, and Western United States. Amid these announcements, several analysts expressed their opinions regarding the company. In this way, a couple of days ago, Credit Suisse downgraded the stock to ‘Underperform’ from ‘Neutral’ and lowered the price target to $34.00 from $38.00. On the other hand, earlier this month, TheStreet and Raymond James upgraded the stock to ‘Buy’ and ‘Outperform’ respectively.

Moreover, Crispin Odey’s Odey Asset Management Group recently reported trimming its stake in Ryland Group Inc (NYSE:RYL) to 1.31 million shares. Aside from Citadel and Odey Asset Management, several other funds among those that we track reported long positions in Ryland Group Inc (NYSE:RYL) in the previous round of 13F filings. Robert Bishop’s Impala Asset Management initiated a stake during the third quarter, and owns 4.05 million shares as of the end of September, while the stake amasses 5% of its equity portfolio. On the other hand, Ken Fisher’s Fisher Asset Management trimmed its position by 2% to 2.33 million shares.

As it was mentioned earlier, Astoria Financial Corp (NYSE:AF)l is another stock that has declined over the last year, losing 8.6%. However, Citadel has been holding shares for over four years, altering its position from time to time. Astoria is a holding company of Astoria Federal Savings and Loan Association with a market cap of $1.30 billion. Astoria Financial Corp (NYSE:AF)’s stock lost ground over the last year, despite reporting financial results that came above the estimates and overall, analysts expect the company’s financial performance to improve further during 2015 with revenue consensus for 2015 amounting to $365 million, versus $342 million reported for 2013 and EPS of $0.69, versus $0.64 in 2013.

Moreover, as the stock of Astoria Financial Corp (NYSE:AF) lost 4% since the beginning of the year, Guggenheim downgraded it to ‘Neutral’ from ‘Buy’ at the beginning of January.

Investors also seem to have mixed feelings regarding the potential of Astoria Financial Corp (NYSE:AF). Among the funds that reported holding shares of the company as of the end of September 2014, Matthew Lindenbaum’s Basswood Capital reported holding 1.17 million shares, while Israel Englander’s Millennium Management initiated a stake with 1.12 million shares. On the other hand, Jim Simons’ Renaissance Technologies decreased its stake by 19% during the third quarter to 393,500 shares.

Disclosure: none