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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

U.S. hedge funds unload Alibaba shares in Q4 2014

(Reuters) - Several of the biggest hedge fund managers slashed or dissolved their stake in China's Alibaba Group Holding Ltd at the end of last year, taking a prescient bet ahead of the company's surprise revenue miss last quarter that sent shares plunging in late January.

Among the institutional investors that dissolved their stake were Leon Cooperman's Omega Advisors, David Tepper's Appaloosa Management and Barry Rosenstein's Jana Partners LLC, according to U.S. regulatory filings released late Friday and Tuesday. Tiger Management, Moore Capital Management and Viking Global Investors LP decreased their stakes from the prior quarter, according to the filings.

Dan Loeb's Third Point and John Paulson's Paulson & Co bucked the trend, increasing their stakes in the Chinese e-commerce giant, while Tiger Global Management was also an anomaly, jumping in and taking a 5.8 million-share stake.

Soros Fund Management Group, the hedge fund firm founded by billionaire George Soros, kept its stake unchanged at 4.4 million shares.

The changes come just months after the hedge fund managers piled into Alibaba following its record $25 billion initial public offering in September. The red hot IPO attracted big purchases from investors eager to gain exposure to a company often referred to as the "Amazon of China."

The shares soared to a high of $120 in November, but have tumbled since then, dropping about 27.6 percent to their close of $86.85 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. Alibaba shares, which opened at $92.70 at their market debut on Sept. 19, took a sharp drop last month after the company reported lower-than-expected revenues for the third quarter.

Among those who unloaded shares from their previous positions: Tiger Management, led by Julian Robertson, decreased its position by 53 percent to 571,183 shares at the end of last year, from 1.2 million shares in the prior quarter. Louis Bacon's Moore Capital Management decreased its stake by 91 percent to 138,345 shares from 1.52 million; and Viking Global Investors LP decreased its stake by 67.5 percent to 3.7 million shares from 11.4 million shares.

Third Point increased its stake by 38.9 percent to 10 million shares at the end of December, from 7.2 million shares at the end of September, while Paulson nudged up its stake by 1.2 percent to 1.93 million shares from 1.9 million shares.

Even as appetite sours among several of the biggest investors, some remain optimistic about the long-term potential of the e-commerce giant. Mark Yusko, head of the $4 billion Morgan Creek Capital Management, told Reuters in January that he sees Alibaba as a "dominant franchise," able to capitalize on China's growing consumer market.

U.S. regulators require large investors to disclose their stock holdings every quarter, providing a window into the strategies of some of the biggest hedge fund managers for buying and selling stocks.

    The disclosures known as 13F filings, which came out on Friday and Tuesday, show manager holdings as of the end of the fourth quarter.

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