A mystery American who leads an American hedge fund has gambled up to $7.2 billion on Ireland’s economic recovery – with more investment to come.
The bet so far has paid off in a major way with Irish bonds rising by 35 percent since June.
California based Franklin Templeton Investments have poured money into government bonds in Ireland and Hungary in spite of the Eurozone crisis.
Trader Michael Hasenstab, 38, is fronting the Franklin Templeton investment into two of Europe’s most damaged economies.
“Without question, the single best trade in the entire euro zone space is the one he’s done,” Donal O’Mahony, global strategist for Davy Securities in Dublin, told the New York Times.
“The firm has given him a lot of freedom to execute a unique strategy, and it’s paid off,” said Miriam Sjoblom, an analyst with the research firm Morningstar.
“But the risks that he’s taking here are pretty considerable, and there is the potential for the fund to suffer a bad spell.”
The New York Times says that Hasenstab has been an ‘evangelist for Ireland’s stoic response to the crisis’.
Last October he wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “Wage cuts for Irish workers are painful but have helped the country regain competitiveness.”
The Irish trade appears to be going well. The price of Irish government bonds has risen 37 percent since the end of June, according to a Bloomberg index.
“They’ve had a huge gain on the trade; they’ve done really well,” said Ronan Reid, the chief executive of Dolman Securities in Ireland.
Hasenstab declined to speak to the New York Times, but the report did contain a quote he made in a video on the company’s website last October.
“We take a long-term perspective, it’s a research-driven perspective and we’re often contrarian, and that has been the case for decades and I think will remain the case for decades to come,” said Hasenstab.
His mutual funds firm caters to individual investors rather than to sophisticated institutional customers like pension funds. Already, reports have compared Hasenstab to industry giants like Bill Gross of Pimco.
Hasenstab’s team of research analysts control more than $165 billion in assets, including the $57 billion Templeton Global Bond Fund.
When most investors dumped Irish bonds last summer – after a junk status rating by the Moodys agency – Hasenstab and his team bought heavily.
Public figures say his team’s investment in Ireland stands at $2.5billion but insiders say the company may own up to $7.2billion of Irish stock with more again invested in Hungary.
The Irish bonds have already rallied more than 35 per cent from last summer.
Dublin traders noticed a big buyer coming into the Irish government bond market late in the second quarter of last year and into the third.