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Apple a hedge fund target; Soros doubles stake

Date: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Author: Matt Krantz, USA Today

Well-known investor George Soros has nearly doubled the size of his investment in Apple, the latest sign how the struggling stock is drawing big bets from celebrity investors.

Just a day after investor Carl Icahn revealed his plans to build a big position in Apple, fellow billionaire Soros disclosed in a regulatory filing that he now owns 66,800 shares of the company. The two are the latest deep-pocketed investors eyeing Apple's nearly $150 billion in cash and investments, hoping the company will do something with that financial warchest to enrich shareholders.

The size of Icahn's investment is unclear. Soros, though he owns more than $34 million worth of Apple shares, doesn't crack even the top 10 holders of the stock. The largest individual hedge fund owner is David Einhorn's GreenLight Capital, with 2.3 million shares, says S&P Capital IQ, followed by D. E. Shaw, which owns 1.7 million shares. Leon Cooperman of Omega Advisors also got back into Apple shares by buying 31,000 of the company.

Apple has become the latest battleground for these private investors who see opportunity when a once high-flying stock falls on hard times. Apple, for instance, hit an all-time high of $702.10 last September before falling below $400 a share in April. Even after the stock jumped on news Icahn had bought his stake, at its close of $498.50 Wednesday it is still down 6% this year -- a period in which the broad Standard & Poor's 500 index is up 18%.

In fact, late Wednesday, there were a flurry of SEC filings showing how much money big-name investors have been moving in -- and out -- of companies:

* Herbalife. Soros disclosed taking a 5% stake in vitamin company Herbalife, which has become a showcase of hedge funds lining up against each other. Activist investor Bill Ackman has been incorrectly betting against Herbalife shares so far, calling it a Ponzi scheme.

* J.C. Penney. Soros revealed a bet on the retailer that has been struggling to turn itself around and that was also targeted by Ackman. Shares of the retailer are struggling as the company attempted a restructuring urged by Ackman that didn't pan out.

* Procter & Gamble. Ackman disclosed that he had reduced his stake in the consumer products giant by nearly 70% and also that he also had sold all his firm's nearly 6 million shares in food company Mondelez International.