Greek Pension Fund Balloons On Sovereign Debt Bet

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An Athens, Greece-based fund has had its Assets Under Management (AUM) double in the last six months after a big bet in Greek government bonds paid off. Hellenic Pension Mutual Fund Management Company which specializes, as the name would suggest, in investments for pension funds, has seen its assets go from €384 million last June to €684 million as of last week.

Greek Pension Fund Balloons On Sovereign Debt Bet

Greek hedge funds aren’t the only ones that have been benefiting from great returns on Greek debt, US funds like the Baupost Group have also made profits from debt. Dan Loeb’s Third Point is also said to have invested heavily in Greek debt. Sources suggested a profit of half a billion on the assets last December for Dan Loeb’s fund.

The gains in Greek debt come almost two years after the country’s deficit and debt problems overcame its own government’s ability to exist. A European and International Monetary Fund bailout followed, and fears of a huge default drove the price of the country’s debt way down last year. The return in the value of that debt has made a lot of money for those confident enough to have risked the bet last year.

For the Hellenic Pension Mutual Fund, the bet was probably less risky than for most. If the country were to default on its debt, the chaos in the Southern European nation, and the probable loss of government pensions, would mean little in the way of repercussions if it lost a huge amount of its value. The country has not, however, defaulted, and the big bet, whatever the level of risk, has paid off.

A lot of hedge funds and other investors are looking to find similar opportunities in Southern Europe. There is an assumption that the crises that have rocked nations like Spain Portugal, Greece and Italy have left at least some of their assets at arbitrarily low valuations. Returns in such an atmosphere may be risky, but they may also be outsized.

The mutual fund in question held 7 percent of its AUM in Greek bonds, mostly in government debt, while 25 percent was held in European Financial Stability Fund bonds. The remaining assets of the fund were held in cash and in Greek equities. The incredibly risky strategy has paid off, and the fund has seen its Assets Under Management balloon since last year.

The bond restructuring deal that was agreed upon last year cut Greek bonds of half of their value. That deal guaranteed that Greek pension funds would receive property in lieu of the value they lost on the bonds. That return has not yet come through, leaving  funds like HMPF hit hard. The total value lost by Greek pensions in the bond deal was €10 billion, the property value was expected to match that, but it simply has not happened yet.

HPMF management said that the big bet was a once off, and that the firm would return to a more balanced, and less risky, investment strategy going forward.

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Paul Shea
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