Friday, May 15, 2009

Soros Fund Cuts Petrobras Stake, Raises Retailers

Billionaire George Soros cut stakes in his biggest holdings, Petroleo Brasileiro SA and Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, and bought more shares of retailers in the first quarter.

Soros Fund Management LLC, the investor’s hedge-fund firm, sold 5 million U.S. shares of Petrobras, as the Brazilian company is known, according to a filing today with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The New York-based firm’s remaining 32 million shares of the state-controlled oil company were valued at $963 million at the end of the quarter.

The hedge fund also held 5.6 million shares of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based Potash at the end of the quarter, compared with 5.9 million shares as of Dec. 31.

Soros’s company oversees about $21 billion. Its Quantum Endowment Fund returned 7.2 percent in the first quarter. Hedge funds gained an average of 0.52 percent during the period, according to data compiled by Hedge Fund Research Inc. in Chicago.

Soros bought 9.28 million shares of Macy’s Inc., the second-biggest U.S. department-store chain, bringing its holding to 9.85 million shares. The firm added 4.26 million shares of Lowe’s Cos., the second-largest home-improvement retailer, bringing its investment to 5.36 million shares.

Soros also added 1.35 million shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, lifting his stake to 1.82 million shares of the Bentonville, Arkansas-based firm.

The value of Soros’s U.S. stock holdings shrank to $4.16 billion as of March 31 from $4.22 billion on Dec. 31, according to data compiled by Bloomberg that don’t reflect the fund’s holdings in cash or other securities.

Michael Vachon, a spokesman for Soros, declined to comment on the holdings.

Soros also bought 968,000 shares of Entergy Corp., the second-largest U.S. operator of nuclear power plants, and 3.59 million shares of Houston-based Plains Exploration & Production Co. in the first quarter. Soros sold off its stake in Schlumberger Ltd., the world’s largest oilfield-services provider, and U.S. coal producer Consol Energy Inc.

Money managers who oversee more than $100 million in equities must file a Form 13F within 45 days of each quarter’s end to list their U.S.-traded stocks, options and convertible bonds. The filings don’t show non-U.S. securities or how much cash the firms hold.

Hedge funds are private, largely unregulated pools of capital whose managers can buy or sell any assets, bet on falling as well as rising asset prices and participate substantially in profits from money invested.