Tuesday 24 October 2017

Hedge fund titans betting €9bn on Ireland's recovery

Roisin Burke

The €2bn bet on Irish debt led by US investment boss Michael Hasenstab begs the question: who else is taking punts on Ireland?

Some of the biggest hedge fund names in the world, as it turns out.

Hedge fund and wealth managers own almost 10 per cent of Ireland's sovereign debt -- €9bn worth.

Legendary investors are speculating on our bonds, including Pimco's Bill Gross, Blackrock's Larry Fink and more. The most standout characteristic these mega-wealthy investment gurus seem to share is serious nerdiness. Are they living it up on Laurent Perrier Rose and Hollywood starlets? Eh, no. They're stamp collectors, fly fishers, folk art collectors and writers of worthy books.

As well as Hasenstab's Franklin Templeton, the US bond giant Loomis Sayles own a substantial wedge of Irish debt. Founded by renowned investment guru Dan Fuss, it's one of the biggest hedge funds the world. Fuss has said Loomis Sayles was a buyer in the secondary market and took part in Ireland's €1.5bn debt auction. In total, Loomis holds roughly €1.36bn of Irish government debt.

Super square Fuss gets up at 4.28am on the dot everyday without an alarm clock and shuns computers in favour of pen and pencil.

Bill Gross's Pimco is the biggest bond fund in the world and also holds Irish sovereign bonds. Gross is an avid stamp collector and proud owner of the only complete set of 19th century US stamps. He also enjoys fly fishing. He lives in Jennifer Aniston's former house, bought for about €40m.

The world's biggest asset manager is Blackrock Group, founded by the legendary Larry Fink, one of the most powerful wealth managers in the world. Its risk management business, Blackrock Solutions, stress tested our banks last year. Blackrock companies have a small amount of Irish debt.

Fink is a passionate collector of American folk art, and his New York office is decked out in his pieces.

Wealth guru John C Bogle is feted as one of the world's greatest investors. The 82-year-old's Vanguard Group owns a small amount of Irish government bonds. Bogle created the world's first index fund in the 1970s and has written several knowledgeable but mortally dry books about money markets.

Goldman Sachs, also holds Irish bonds, including chunks held at Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Goldman Sachs International.

Boston-based State Street, where veteran Central Bank figure Willie Slattery heads up the Irish business, has Irish debt as part of its $330bn fund under management.

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