Kyle Bass Launches New Fund For 200x Levered Bet Against Hong Kong Dollar

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Jun 09, 2020 - 02:53 PM

When we first published Kyle Bass's "the Quiet Panic" back in April 2019, the investing community laughed off Bass's leveraged bet against the HKD's peg to the dollar as a novelty, and blasted Bass as a washed-up sinophobe who spends his days hanging out with Steve Bannon in an empty aircraft hanger.

When unrest erupted in Hong Kong a couple of months later, talk of financial stress was, at least initially, surprisingly muted. But Beijing's clampdown appears to finally have brought HK's chickens home to roost, as its currency's peg to the dollar has come under intense strain.

During the interceding months, as Bass has admittedly focused more on politics and less on running his hedge fund, he has become so convinced that the peg will soon snap, that he's cranked up to leverage on his long-term derivatives bet to absurd levels, hoping to reap another windfall on par with his bet against the housing market that launched him to investing superstardom.

According to Bloomberg, Bass has raised an undisclosed amount of money for a new fund under the auspices of Hayman Capital that will use long-term options contracts to place a 200-to-1 leveraged bet against the HKD currency peg.

Unfortunately for Bass, the HKD has been so strong in recent months that  HK's de-facto central bank, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, has sold more than HK$40 billion ($5.2 billion) since April to prevent the currency from appreciating outside the band. Others have dismissed dismissed this recent upside pressure as the calm before the storm, as the US prepares to strip HK of its special status, threatening tens of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan said this month that the city is ready to defend the exchange rate and that, if necessary, the mainland would backstop the peg via swap lines with the PBOC. Other fears of financial stress in the HK banking system and housing market have also been relatively muted.

That could be a serious problem for Bass's investors since, as Bloomberg points out, the insane leverage ratio means that losses will be 100% if the peg isn't broken within 18 months.

Kyle Bass is going for broke on a currency trade that has burned bearish speculators for more than three decades.

The Dallas-based founder of Hayman Capital Management is starting a new fund that will make all-or-nothing wagers on a collapse in Hong Kong’s currency peg, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Bass, best known for his prescient bet against subprime mortgages before the 2008 financial crisis, will use option contracts to leverage the new fund’s assets by 200 times, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information. While the strategy is designed to generate outsized gains if Hong Kong’s currency tumbles against the dollar, investors stand to lose all their money if the peg is still intact after 18 months.

Bass's track record on HK has been impressively prescient, but still, the drawbacks to such a high leverage ratio means there's no room for error, as BBG explains.

The trade is audacious even for Bass, who profited handsomely during the subprime crisis but has since had less success with doomsday calls on everything from Japanese government bonds to the Chinese yuan. A vocal critic of China’s Communist Party, the 50-year-old investor wrote in a Newsweek op-ed last month that Hong Kong has become “ground zero for the ideological clash between democracy and heavy-handed Chinese communism.”

And although we're tempted to question whether his politics are coloring his judgment, if Bass does prevail, he will join a rarefied club of macro managers who have attained legendary status for reaping massive profits on macro bets, like George Soros did when he "broke the back of the pound".

Bass reportedly told prospective investors in the Hayman Hong Kong Opportunities Fund, which launched June 1, that they could expect as high as a 64-fold return if the currency declines by 40%, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because it’s private. That would be even larger than the Chinese yuan deval of August 2015.

Whatever happens with the fund, at least Bass will earn a decent profit on the management fees. Bass is charging a one-time fee of 2%, and 15% of profits, though presumably he is investing at least some of his own money in the fund, as he has in the past.