RBR Rebrands Rhine Alpha Funds, Launches LP

Jul 26 2013 | 10:29am ET

Swiss-based RBR Capital Advisors, manager of the Rhine Alpha and Rhine Alpha Stars funds, is celebrating its 10th anniversary by re-branding—and launching an LP.

RBR Chief Risk Officer Chris Gibson told FINalternatives the funds, which returned 28.9% and 29.5%, respectively in 2012, will now be known as the RBR European Long/Short funds, names he said better reflect their broadened field of interest.

'Rhine Alpha' made sense early on, said Gibson, as the funds—one a Luxembourg-based UCITS IV vehicle, the other a Cayman-based vehicle pursuing a similar strategy with a higher gross exposure—“started off being uniquely in the German speaking countries” but “for a couple of years now we've really branched out quite substantially.”

In fact, RBR's most successful plays in 2012 included shorts against Spanish banks and a French car maker (Peugeot). That said, their successful long plays still featured companies from the German-speaking universe—including Austrian banks and Volkswagen.

“I think last year we did really well on stock-picking because we were able to get a really nice amount of alpha on both the long and the short books,” said Gibson. “[W]e've had a very stable book, we haven't had a massive turnover...[W]e're very much fundamentally constructed...We are cognizant of the macro but we still build our portfolio through the opportunities that we see on a fundamental basis.”

To date in 2013, Gibson said a long bet on the Spanish telecommunications firm Jazztel has paid off well for them. “When everybody thinks, 'I'm going to stay away from Spain because that's just going down the drain,' you get opportunities like that because it's a very macro-oriented view.”

A “slightly more intriguing trade,” he said, is their long bet on Mediaset, the Italian media company founded (and still controlled) by former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi. That bet has “worked out really well for us,” said Gibson. “We see that there's a lot of potential in their cost-cutting and the market in general has been really negative on them...and as the stock's moved up, we've managed to do well.”

In April, the firm launched an LP with backing from a U.S. investor, whom Gibson preferred not to name, saying only it was an S&P 500 investment bank. Gibson said they see real opportunity in the U.S. where investors “tend to be underweight European equities.”

RBR manages $120 million but Gibson said they've tested the strategy for capacity and believe it can handle up to $1.5 billion “I would say that we're looking to go somewhere towards a billion and we'll see how that goes,” he said. “We wouldn't want performance to wane just because we picked up assets.”

RBR Capital and the Rhine Alpha Fund were launched in 2003 by Rudolf Bohli, the former head of equities research for the boutique broker Bank am Bellevue (part of the Swiss Bellevue Group). The Rhine Alpha Stars fund was launched in 2005. Gibson said the funds have returned almost 12% on annualized basis since inception.

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