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Hedges turn to business of rescue

Financial Times- Even as politicians and regulators accuse hedge fund short-sellers of trying to bring down banks in Britain, the US and Australia, top hedge managers are providing rescue capital to prop up the ailing corporate world.

The latest bail-out backed by hedge funds is the £4.5bn cash raising by Britain’s Barclays, where five big managers are ready to provide just under 10 per cent of the new money – with sovereign wealth funds providing the majority of the rest.

Hedge funds are important backers of the current wave of rights issues, too, according to investment bankers close to the deals. In spite of publicly-declared short positions – where hedge funds hope to profit from falling prices – several big hedge funds are sub-underwriting the rescue rights issue by HBOS, the biggest mortgage lender, guaranteeing to buy the shares if the rights are not taken up.

"Although equity underwriting currently looks difficult, hedge fund participation in this market has increased as their asset base has grown," says Jim Renwick, vice-chairman at UBS. "This has been the case for more than five years now."

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