Even before oil prices started tanking, Russia was a risky place to invest. Corruption and political risk have been problems for a while, and tension with Ukraine gave investors good reason to leave earlier in the year. The hedge funds that stayed behind have mostly gotten slammed in recent weeks, but Alden Global Capital has become one of the few winners as its short position against the ruble has paid off, reports Kelly Bit for Bloomberg. The fund has been short the ruble for the last month and a half, during which time the ruble has lost about a third of its value.
Many hedge funds left Russia before oil prices dropped
“The big selloff in Russia isn’t having much of an effect on hedge funds because they have very little at play there,” said Eric Siegel, head of hedge fund research and management at Citi Private Bank, CNBC reports. “The ruble isn’t a widely traded currency, and most of the emerging markets equity managers we know have pulled back from Russian exposure over the year.”
But of course not everyone has left the market, and those who stayed behind are among the worst performing funds in the world. CNBC reports that Kaltchuga Fund is down 32.5%, the Firebird New Russia Fund is down 26%, and the Russian Prosperity Fund has lost nearly half its value this year. According to data from hedge weekly, the Russian prosperity fund was down over 28% through November 20th, making it the worst performing fund which is tracked of the year.
Ruble drops: Should value investors start looking to Russia?
The question now is when hedge funds and other risk tolerant investors should start looking for deals in a market that has been hit so hard, there are almost certainly some strong companies caught up in the general negative sentiment.
“These kinds of crises eventually end, and it will be the case here. Buying opportunities will arise, but they will be very specific and must be studied carefully,” says emerging markets fund manager at Franklin Templeton Mark Mobius, report Miles Johnson and Madison Marriage for the FT.
There are some concerns that Russia will institute capital controls until its markets stabilize, but when the immediate crisis starts to subside (especially if oil prices rebound in the coming months), at some point value investors will want to look for Russian stocks with strong balance sheets and some kind of moat. Many value investors have been doing that, but at least so far, the results have been poor.