As it turns out, Michael Hasenstab wasn’t the only one who got killed by the collapse in Argentinian assets last month. As it happens, the Wall Street Journal has rooted out one macro-focused hedge fund that took it on the chin so hard, its LPs are probably rethinking their investment decisions (which is probably how the news got out: people love to complain, after all).
Autonomy Capital, founded by former Lehman trader Robert Gibbins, took a $1 billion – or 23% – hit last month after its concentrated position in Argentinian debt went horribly awry. Gibbins, who founded the firm in 2003 and has successfully grown it over the years into a firm with roughly $4 billion in assets, is known for making large, concentrated bets.
That strategy paid off in 2018, when the firm notched a 17% return, making it one of the best-performing funds in its class. Per WSJ, Gibbins started betting on an economic recovery in Argentina last year, and eventually built a large position in a range of Argentine bonds, including the infamous century bond.
At the time, Argentina was just getting over the near-collapse of its currency after being bailed out by the IMF. But for savvy investors, the writing on the wall was already clear: the pro-business government of President Mauricio Macri was not long for this world. Last month, when Macri lost an important primary to Alberto Fernandez, a leftist candidate running on the same ticket as former president Cristina Kirchner, it rattled Argentine markets, causing the century bond’s worst one-day drop yet.
Macri’s defeat now appears extremely likely, as his government has failed to stave off a worsening economic crisis in Argentina. Kirchner has already presided over one sovereign default.
Apparently not one to cut his losses, Gibbins is doubling down, and offering his LPs an “opportunity” to put more capital into the fund. Given his track record, it’s likely that some will buy his pitch for how Argentina’s battered markets will recover.
After all, a person “familiar with Mr. Gibbins’ thinking” is confident he can turn it all around.
“When all is said and done on this trade, I think we will make money,” said a person familiar with Mr. Gibbins’s thinking.
For what it’s worth, Fernandez has exhibited the same level of sheer unjustifiable confidence, saying on Thursday that Argentina will honor its debt “as it always has.”
“As it always has” – aside from those eight sovereign defaults, you mean?