Via Financial Times

Solus Alternative Asset Management failed to pay previously-agreed redemptions from clients fleeing its flagship distressed investment fund, as the $4.3bn hedge fund manager struggled with heavy withdrawal requests and its portfolio tumbled in value.

Solus, which decided to shut the flagship fund last month after a run of poor performance, told investors who had requested their money back before it closed that they would not receive their funds as planned on March 31, according to a letter seen by the Financial Times.

The hedge fund offered no specific timeframe for when redemption proceeds would be sent to these investors, who requested their money back before the end of last year.

“This delay in payment is due to the recent and extreme market volatility and its impact on the funds, their cash needs and portfolios,” Christopher Pucillo, Solus founder, wrote in a letter to investors. “We currently expect to be able to pay redemption proceeds when market conditions stabilise.”

Solus declined to comment.

The New York-based hedge fund announced it was closing its flagship fund, Sola, in early March and told investors at the time that it would restrict redemptions this year while conducting “an orderly liquidation” of the fund, which had received “unexpected withdrawal requests”.

The FT reported in December that Sola had sustained big losses from a number of ill-fated bets on companies including satellite operator Intelsat and Pacific Gas & Electric.

Solus, which looks to profit from buying stocks and bonds of struggling companies at bargain prices, gained prominence as one of the most high-profile distressed investment groups in the US after its skirmish with Toys R Us employees in 2018 and a legal battle over derivatives with a Blackstone-owned hedge fund, GSO Capital Partners.

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Launched in 2010, it built a good record with investors as markets emerged from the last financial crisis. But as distressed opportunities became more difficult to find while the economy was booming, the group struggled to perform and lost $1bn in assets in 2019 alone. 

An investor report from January showed that 22 per cent of Sola’s exposure was to “energy equipment and services” companies, a sector that has been hit by a sharp fall in the oil price this year.

Some of its equity investments in the energy sector, including US coal miner Contura Energy and offshore drilling services group Hornbeck, had already dropped about 90 per cent last year.

The fund declined by more than 8 per cent last year, after a 15 per cent drop in 2018.