US hedge funds suffer heavy withdrawals

Investors pulled at least $43bn from US hedge funds in September as market turmoil led to unprecedented withdrawals, an analysis by a leading research house shows.

The data from TrimTabs Investment Research – which was to be sent to clients late on Wednesday – come as hedge funds are working to prevent far bigger redemptions by the end of the year, when many funds give investors a chance to take out money.

Withdrawals can lead to a vicious circle in the markets, as funds sell holdings to return money to clients, depressing prices and prompting further redemptions.

To prevent such an outcome, some hedge funds had offered to suspend fees if investors kept their money in until March, said Marc Freed, of Lyster Watson, which invests in hedge funds on behalf of institutional and private clients.

“Every investor fears other investors will pull their money and so they worry they will be at the back of the line if they don’t also pull,” Mr Freed said.

“Nobody will invest in anything illiquid because they think they may not survive long enough to see them rise in value.”

A fundraiser for a major hedge fund said the period “between now and December 1 is a sort of death march” for the industry.

The chief executive of a leading alternative investment manager said he expected the hedge fund industry to shrink by 50 per cent in coming months – with half the decline coming from withdrawals and half coming from investment losses.

Conrad Gunn, chief operating officer of TrimTabs, said the $43bn in September withdrawals would mark “the beginning of what we expect to be a series of outflows for the remainder of the year. We expect October outflows to be larger”.

Mr Gunn said the September outflows were based on an analysis of preliminary data and that the final tally would probably be higher because funds with heavy redemptions tended to report data later.

The industry, which manages close to $2,000bn, has experienced outflows during only a handful of months previously, including a small outflow in April of this year.

JPMorgan Chase has estimated that hedge fund outflows could total up to $150bn over the coming year. As investors take their money out of hedge funds, the funds have to sell assets.

But because they use so much borrowed money, the amount of potential asset sales is far larger. For example, JPMorgan expects that an outflow of $150bn will lead to sales of about $400bn.

Published: October 16 2008 00:16 | Last updated: October 16 2008 00:16
By Deborah Brewster and Henny Sender in New York

Source: The Financial Times

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