Monday, December 1, 2008

Deleveraging by Leveraged Funds-of-funds

The calling of Allianz’s EUR300 million Phenix CFO -- purportedly the first to be liquidated -- augurs poorly for the hedge fund industry, adding a further redemption burden to their tally of existing difficulties: staving off general investor fear and redemption requests; reserving against price markdowns and margin/haircut postings; deleveraging in a difficult market; establishing new and maintaining current sources of funding; combating higher funding costs; complying with increased accounting and regulatory demands; mitigating against rating agency downgrades; ...

And now a new source of redemption requests - by CFOs

CFOs -- collateralized fund obligations -- are essentially leveraged bets against the performance of a (oftentimes managed) portfolio of hedge funds. As is the case with CDOs, investors in CFOs go "long" the performance of a set of receivables (usually from debt). For CBOs, these receivables are the coupons of bonds (hence the "B" in CBO). For CLOs, loans. For ABS CDOs, the underlying are ABS (really, RMBS) tranches. For CFOs, the return of the funds, with the underlying typically comprising direct purchases in hedge funds or referenced exposures via total return swaps.

CFOs differ from typical CDOs in a few ways (e.g., similar to market-value CDOs, overcollateralization tests measure market value coverage - as opposed to par/principal coverage; there's no real notion of interest coverage ratios; existence of minimum net worth tests with various curing and/or liquidation procedures, such as the issuance of additional preference shares).

In the case of Phenix CFO, according to Bloomberg, more than 75 of the 80 hedge funds invested in by the structure have either liquidated or limited (or completely suspended) client withdrawals from their funds. With this in mind, Phenix's bondholders voted to liquidate the deal.

This notification, which came out on Friday, ends a tough month for hedge funds and banks in general, as can be seen from the graph below (click on it to enlarge).

UPDATE - February 2, 2009: Fitch Ratings Announcement

To address short-term volatility in CFO performance as well as reporting delays from underlying hedge fund investments, Fitch's [newly updated] analysis applies a 10% haircut upfront to the most recent reported portfolio NAV. The 10% haircut was derived using the worst monthly return decline reported by Fitch-rated CFOs.


Hedge fund returns, as represented by several multi-strategy indices, declined approximately 20 to 25% in 2H 2008. As well, Fitch has observed reductions to hedge fund CFO liquidity (including gating, restructuring, side pockets) in a range of approximately 5% to 40% of net asset value(NAV) in fourth-quarter 2008.

Interestingly, this final paragraph bring us back to our October '08 piece (Jack of All Trades?), highlighting the underperformance of multi-strategy hedge funds.

UPDATE - March 26, 2009: Moody's downgrades all tranches issued by SVG Diamond Private Equity II. SVG is a CDO somewhat similar to CFOs, but is backed by returns to shares of (principally) private equity (PE) funds, as opposed to a diversified pool of hedge funds.

1 comment:


I am not a big fan of hedge funds.