But despite a tough year for hedge funds, many of the crème de la crème on Wall Street did pretty well – even on just equity investments alone.
Robbins, Einhorn Trail Ackman, Still Come Out Strong
From the start of the year through market close Friday, Bill Ackman’s equity investments produced a total return of +46.61%.
His investments in companies like Burger King Worldwide (NYSE:BKW) and Air Products & Chemicals (NYSE:APD) pushed the Pershing Square portfolio higher. Moreover, the Ackman’s highly-publicized bid for Allergan (NYSE:AGN) turned out to be one of his best plays in years – a major feat, considering it didn’t exactly turn out as planned.
But Ackman isn’t 2014’s only big story – or strong performer.
Both Larry Robbins and David Einhorn put in good years as well. Their total equity returns hit +18.17% and +18.16% respectively, above the +15.30% gain posted by the S&P 500 and the +11.46% climb from the Dow Jones.
Robbins’ secret sauce? Health care. Investments in Humana (NYSE:HUM), Tenet (NYSE:THC) andThermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE:TMO) drove gains for Glenview Capital in 2014. Side note: Robbins’ most recent buys indicate he thinks consumer discretionary (namely, cars and clothes) may be the way to go in 2015.
As for David Einhorn, it’s tech bets such as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Micron (NASDAQ:MU) that have made bank. And we can’t forget that interesting little play in turning BioFuel to Green Brick (NASDAQ:GRBK).
Equity Investments Tough – But Not Terrible – for Cooperman and Icahn
Both Leon Cooperman and Carl Icahn have acknowledged that, investment-wise, 2014 hasn’t been awesome.
“We are having a mediocre year, but our philosophy is if you made money for the clients, you get paid. If you lose money, you don’t. Very simple but fair approach,” the Omega Advisors head wrote in an email CNBC. “Having done this for 46 years, I can tell you it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Or as the Brooklyn Dodgers used to say, ‘Wait ’till next year!’”
Icahn touched on the issue in his November letter to Icahn Enterprises investors. “As I’ve said in the past, while I am extremely proud of our long term record, there have always been sporadic speed bumps along the road. However, I believe over the long term, our model continues to be one of the best in the world,” he reflected.
While they’re not racking up wins, in terms of equity investments, Cooperman or Icahn haven’t done that bad this year, either. Cooperman’s public equity portfolio has lost -4.20%, and Icahn’s just -0.39%.
The billionaire whose equity performance has really lagged in 2014: Wilbur Ross, down -22.78% through market close Friday.
In the Green Overall
Of the 20 billionaire investors tracked by iBillionaire, only three will end the year in the red in terms of total equity return performance.
Julian Robertson, Dan Loeb, David Tepper and Steve Mandel returned upwards of +10% this year, and Warren Buffett’s public equity portfolio climbed +8.90%. On average, the equity holdings of the billionaires tracked gained +9.43%. Also worth noting: the iBillionaire Index’s +11.67% climb.