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Hedge Fund Billionaire Dan Loeb Bets Big on BlackBerry Ltd

By Andrew Tonner - Feb 18, 2014 at 8:15PM

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What its newest superinvestor means for BlackBerry stock.

Shares of Canadian comeback kid BlackBerry (BB 1.08%) are riding high once again today.

Over the last several months BlackBerry has seen more positive developments than any time in recent memory. All told, shares of BlackBerry have spiked some 22% since the appointment of newly minted CEO John Chen last November, nearly three times the return the tech-oriented Nasdaq has seen during the same time frame.

Source: BlackBerry

BlackBerry's been propelled upward of late by a number of analyst upgrades. But perhaps the most significant news for BlackBerry in the last week is that one of the world's best known (and potentially least liked) activist hedge-fund managers could be setting his sites on BlackBerry.

BlackBerry's newest booster
Per a recently filed 13F, Third Point LLC disclosed that it had initiated a position in BlackBerry during the past quarter.

For those who don't recognize the name, Third Point is the activist hedge fund with some $14 billion in assets under management. Founded in 1995 by Dan Loeb, Third Point and its founder have become infamous for its highly activist style of investing.

According to its website, Third Point employs what it calls "an event-driven, value-oriented investment style" and that "The Firm seeks to identify situations where we anticipate a catalyst will unlock value." Over the years, Third Point has repeatedly taken upon itself to provide the catalyst for its investments, often through the withering letters to company management teams. The letters typically attempt to cajole companies into action through a mix of in-depth research and skin-curdling criticism, which also make the letters pleasure reading for many on Wall Street.

Although there have been many, perhaps Loeb's most high profile dust-up to date was its protracted activist campaign against Yahoo, in which he repeatedly lobbied for the company to make a number of changes aimed at sending its share price higher in the short term.

Source: Third Point LLC

These kinds of tactics have proven amazingly effective, as Third Point's claimed results have been nothing short of spectacular. According to the website for its Bermudian reinsurance subsidiary, Third Point delivered compounded annual average returns of 21% from its founding through FY 2012. These gains have also led Loeb to be consistently included in lists of hedge-fund billionaires as well.

So, what could Third Point want with BlackBerry?
At present, it's unclear if Third Point has activist plans for BlackBerry, although there's reason to think it might not.

For starters, Third Point often includes its brash management letters in conjunction with its 13F filings. And although they aren't always publicly disclosed, Third Point's letters are often publicly leaked shortly after they're sent. At least at present, no such letter has yet to surface.

Furthermore, Third Point's current holding only equates to about 2% of BlackBerry's current shares outstanding, but that might underreport Third Point's current stake. Although it was filed on Feb. 14, Third Point's 13F reports were for the quarter ending Jan. 31, 2013, so Third Point could have increased its stake meaningfully in the interim. BlackBerry investors will have to wait for either some kind of public word or for future filings to come out in order to know for sure. If it continues to build its stake to wage some kind of activist campaign, investors might know soon. Third Point will be required to file a Form 13D if its ownership stake surpasses 5% of BlackBerry's total shares outstanding.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen has certainly made a number of moves that bode well for BlackBerry's financial trajectory such as outsourcing its handset assembly to hardware expert Foxconn and increasing its emphasis on monetizing its other services. So, it certainly could be that Third Point is simply investing to reap the potential gains those changes might bring.

Only time will tell. But as one of the biggest bullies in finance, investors, or prospective investors, in BlackBerry would do well to pay plenty of attention to this emerging storyline.

Andrew Tonner has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Yahoo!. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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