Big hedge funds fueled fourth-quarter dive in Apple shares

Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:22pm EST
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By Aaron Pressman

BOSTON (Reuters) - Some of the biggest hedge funds that helped make Apple Inc a stock market darling lost faith and dumped their stakes in the fourth quarter, fueling the massive drop in the iPhone maker's share price.

Noted stock pickers including Leon Cooperman, Eric Mindich and Thomas Steyer unloaded billions of dollars of Apple shares between September 30 and December 31, according to disclosure documents filed on Thursday.

Shares of Apple rose to an all-time high of $705.07 on September 21 but ended 2012 down more than 24 percent from that peak as investors worried about increasing competition and declining profit margins.

The shares also may have dropped because their price rose too much, too fast.

"The stock just went up so much in early 2012 and then was coming back to earth," said Justin Walters, co-founder of Wall Street research firm Bespoke Investment Group. "Three months from now, we'll be seeing a lot of the people who sold starting to pick it up again."

The fourth-quarter sellers avoided even deeper losses. Apple's shares have lost 12 percent so far this year. The shares lost 42 cents, or 0.1 percent, to close at $466.59 on the Nasdaq on Thursday.

Cooperman's Omega Advisors fund dumped its entire stake of more than 266,000 shares during the fourth quarter, according to its required quarterly disclosure form filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Mindich, named the youngest partner ever at Goldman Sachs before starting his Eton Park Capital Management fund in 2004, got out of Apple entirely in the fourth quarter after making big sales in the third quarter as well. Eton owned 600,000 shares at the beginning of 2012.   Continued...

Security guards and staff stand at the entrance of an Apple store during the release of iPhone 5 in Beijing's Wangfujing shopping district, December 14, 2012. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic