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South Africa hedge fund managers beat benchmark equity index

The equity long/short strategy ‘fared relatively well’.

South Africa hedge fund managers betting on equities posted returns more than three times higher than the nation’s benchmark stock index in the year to the end of June, according to an annual survey by Novare Investments.

The so-called long/short equity funds, which bet some stocks will rise and others will fall, returned an average of 14.7% in the year while the FTSE/JSE All Share Index gained 3.7%, the survey showed. Managers placed R37.8 billion ($2.75 billion), or 61% of hedge fund assets, into such accounts. Assets under management increased to R62 billion from R53.6 billion in the previous period, according to the survey.

“Despite heightened volatility in the local equity market, the equity long/short strategy fared relatively well,” Cape Town-based Novare said in its 12th survey, released on Monday. “The industry grew assets mainly as a result of solid fund performance.”

The South African hedge fund industry is seeking to expand its footprint. Rules that took effect September 30 focus on attracting more money by creating a retail-friendly category and reducing the impact of what some managers termed the global industry’s “cowboy image” by increasing transparency and oversight.

Fixed-income funds were the second-most popular, accounting for 14 percent of assets, delivering an average return of 7.7%, Novare said. Funds with an equity-market neutral strategy had 8.7% of assets while posting an average return of 9.9 percent, according to the survey. Commodity- focused funds held 3.7% of assets, according to the survey.

Sharpe ratio

The equity long/short strategy earned an average Sharpe ratio, which evaluates risk-adjusted return, of 2.17 compared with 1.63 for fixed income and 1.52 for equity-market neutral funds, Novare said. The previous survey to June 30, 2014, showed the long/short strategy posted a return of 20% while the benchmark index gained 33 percent.

Managers added 16 funds and dissolved six, leaving 111 in place at the end of the year, the latest survey showed. Three- quarters of assets are managed by companies that oversee more than R5 billion, Novare said. The largest funds, those with more than R1 billion, posted the best average return at 13.8%. The worst performing averaged 10.1% and typically contained R100 million to R200 million.

More than half of managers charge fees of 1% of assets under management plus 20% of profit, according to the survey. Funds representing 16% of assets include claw back provisions in their subscription agreements, allowing investors to reclaim fees if the manager fails to hit performance targets, Novare said.

Funds of hedge funds remained the leading type of allocation with 57% of the market, thought this was a drop of 4% from the previous period, Novare said. Deposits from high-net-worth people rose to 26% of assets from 14%, it said. Pension funds allocated just 0.1% of assets, down from 8.4% after a large fund with mostly pension fund investors closed, the survey showed.

More than 7% of funds were hard closed, meaning that no further capital would be accepted, while fewer than 10% were soft closed, only accepting money from current investors, according to Novare. The remaining 83% were accepting new investors, it said.

South Africa’s hedge funds remain a small part of the country’s fund industry, which had assets of R1.8 trillion after an inflow of R77 billion during the year, according to the Association for Savings and Investment South Africa.

©2015 Bloomberg News

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