Business / Corporate

Third Point sells Sony, takes new stakes in eBay, Alibaba

Bloomberg

Third Point LLC, the hedge fund firm run by Daniel Loeb, sold its investment in Sony Corp. and bought stakes in eBay Inc. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. in the third quarter.

The New York-based firm also called for a breakup of biotechnology company Amgen Inc. into a “MatureCo and GrowthCo,” according to a letter to investors released Tuesday.

Loeb said the firm made “nearly 20 percent” on the Sony investment, which was announced in May 2013, despite the company rejecting his push that it spin off about one-fifth of its U.S.-based entertainment business.

While most of Third Point’s investments aren’t based on an activist strategy — where the fund seeks to force management and boards to make changes that boost shareholder returns — it’s those campaigns that attract the most attention.

Loeb last year targeted companies including Dow Chemical, Sony, CF Industries Holdings Inc. and Sotheby’s.

Third Point representatives were impressed with eBay Chief Executive Officer John Donahoe after a meeting with him this summer.

EBay “had arrived at a critical inflection point and gained new focus,” Third Point said in the letter posted Tuesday on its website.

Third Point said it has also met with management of Alibaba and bought a “significant direct investment” in the company that sold shares to the public last month.

“We see continued end-market growth in Chinese consumer spending and e-commerce (as well as global e-commerce) and continue to believe that Alibaba has considerable additional monetization potential,” Third Point said.

Loeb, who runs the $17.5 billion firm, spoke separately Tuesday at the Robin Hood Investors Conference in New York. The event doesn’t allow media.

In an effort to shore up its business, Sony may cut its annual sales target for smartphones for the second time this year, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The revision may be announced when Sony releases second-quarter earnings Oct. 31, the source, asking not to be identified because the information is private. Sony said in July it expects to sell 43 million Xperia devices in the 12 months ending March, lowering an earlier projection of 50 million smartphones.

Sony last month widened its annual loss forecast, citing a ¥180 billion charge in the smartphone business. Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai’s challenge was highlighted when Samsung Electronics Co., the biggest producer, this month posted a slump in earnings, citing competition from lower-priced rivals.

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