Paulson’s Bet Against RBS Turns £275M Profit

Jan 27 2009 | 6:22am ET

Sometimes, it seems that John Paulson can do no wrong. The Paulson & Co. chief continued his remarkable winning streak on Friday, covering his short interest in the Royal Bank of Scotland just in time: RBS shares soared almost 20% yesterday.

New York-based Paulson earned at least £275 million (US$378.5 million) shorting RBS since September, although it is believed that the hedge fund has been betting against the troubled bank for much longer. The firm revealed that its short position in RBS has fallen below the 0.25% disclosure limit in a Friday regulatory filing.

Paulson’s hedge funds posted triple-digit returns in 2007, betting against the subprime mortgage market. Last year, the returns were more modest, but the firm’s double-digit returns compare favorably, to say the least, to the average hedge fund’s double-digit decline.

News of Paulson’s big payday, along with that of Lansdowne Partners’ bet against Barclays shares earlier this month, are likely to make things even more uncomfortable for the hedge fund honchos set to testify before a British Parliamentary committee today. That committee’s head, John McFall, has called for the return of the U.K.’s ban on short-selling certain financial stocks that expired on Jan. 16.

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