|This thesis investigates the performance of hedge funds, funds of hedge funds and alternative Ucits together with the determinants of this performance by using new or well-suited econometric techniques. As such, it lies at the frontier of finance and financial econometrics and contributes to both fields. For the sake of clarity, we summarize the main contributions to each field separately.
The contribution of this thesis to the field of financial econometrics is the time-varying style analysis developed in the second chapter. This statistical tool combines the Sharpe analysis with a time-varying coefficient method; thereby, it is taking the best of both worlds.
Sharpe (1992) has developed the idea of “style analysis”, building on the conclusion that a regression taking into account the constraints faced by mutual funds should give a better picture of their holdings. To get an estimate of their holdings, he incorporates, in a standard regression, typical constraints related to the regulation of mutual funds, such as no short-selling and value preservation. He argues that this gives a more realistic picture of their investments and consequently better estimations of their future expected returns.
Unfortunately, in the style analysis, the weights are constrained to be constant. Even if, for funds of hedge funds the weights should also sum up to 1, given their dynamic nature, the constant weights seem more restrictive than for mutual funds. Hence, the econometric literature was lacking a method incorporating the constraints and the possibility for the weights to vary. Motivated by this gap, we develop a method that allows the weights to vary while being constrained to sum up to 1 by combining the Sharpe analysis with a time-varying coefficient model. As the style analysis has proven to be a valuable tool for mutual fund analysis, we believe our approach offers many potential fields of application both for funds of hedge funds and mutual funds.
The contributions of our thesis to the field of finance are numerous.
Firstly, we are the first to offer a comprehensive and exhaustive assessment of the world of FoHFs. Using both a bootstrap analysis and a method that allows dealing with multiple hypothesis tests straightforwardly, we show that after fees, the majority of FoHFs do not channel alpha from single-manager hedge funds and that only very few FoHFs deliver after-fee alpha per se, i.e. on top of the alpha of the hedge fund indices. We conclude that the added value of the vast majority of FoHFs should thus not be expected to come from the selection of the best HFs but from the risk management-monitoring skills and the easy access they provide to the HF universe.
Secondly, despite that the leverage is one of the key features of funds of hedge funds, there was a gap in the understanding of the impact it might have on the investor’s alpha. This was likely due to the quasi-absence of data about leverage and to the fact that literature was lacking a proper tool to implicitly estimate this leverage.
We fill this gap by proposing a theoretical model of fund of hedge fund leverage and alpha where the cost of borrowing is increasing with leverage. In the literature, this is the first model which integrates the rising cost of borrowing in the leverage decision of FoHFs. We use this model to determine the conditions under which the leverage has a negative or a positive impact on investor’s alpha and show that the manager has an incentive to take a leverage that hurts the investor’s alpha. Next, using estimates of the leverages of a sample of FoHFs obtained through the time-varying style analysis, we show that leverage has indeed a negative impact on alphas and appraisal ratios. We argue that this effect may be an explanation for the disappointing alphas delivered by funds of hedge funds and can be interpreted as a potential explanation for the “capacity constraints ” effect. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to report and explain this negative relationship between alpha and leverage in the industry.
Thirdly, we show the interest of the time-varying coefficient model in hedge fund performance assessment and selection. Since the literature underlines that manager skills are varying with macro-economic conditions, the alpha should be dynamic. Unfortunately, using ordinary least-squares regressions forces the estimate of the alpha to be constant over the estimation period. The alpha of an OLS regression is thus static whereas the alpha generation process is by nature varying. On the other hand, we argue that the time-varying alpha captures this dynamic behaviour.
As the literature shows that abnormal-return persistence is essentially short-term, we claim that using the quasi-instantaneous detection ability of the time-varying model to determine the abnormal-return should lead to outperforming portfolios. Using a persistence analysis, we check this conjecture and show that contrary to top performers in terms of OLS alpha, the top performers in terms of past time-varying alpha generate superior and significant ex-post performance. Additionally, we contribute to the literature on the topic by showing that persistence exists and can be as long as 3 years. Finally, we use the time-varying analysis to obtain estimates of the expected returns of hedge funds and show that using those estimates in a mean-variance framework leads to better ex-post performance. Therefore, we conclude that in terms of hedge fund performance detection, the time-varying model is superior to the OLS analysis.
Lastly, we investigate the funds that have chosen to adopt the “Alternative UCITS” framework. Contrary to the previous frameworks that were designed for mutual fund managers, this new set of European Union directives can be suited to hedge fund-like strategies. We show that for Ucits funds there is some evidence, although weak, of the added value of offshore experience. On the other hand, we find no evidence of added value in the case of non-offshore experienced managers. Motivated to further refine our results, we separate Ucits with offshore experienced managers into two groups: those with equivalent offshore hedge funds (replicas) and those without (new funds). This time, Ucits with no offshore equivalents show low volatility and a strongly positive alpha. Ucits with offshore equivalents on the other hand bring no added value and, not surprisingly, bear no substantial differences in their risk profile with their paired funds offshore. Therefore, we conclude that offshore experience plays a significant role in creating positive alpha, as long as it translates into real innovations. If the fund is a pure replica, the additional costs brought by the Ucits structure represent a handicap that is hardly compensated. As “Alternative Ucits” have only been scarcely investigated, this paper represents a contribution to the better understanding of those funds.
In summary, this thesis improves the knowledge of the distribution, detection and determinants of the performance in the industry of hedge funds. It also shows that a specific field such as the hedge fund industry can still tell us more about the sources of its performance as long as we can use methodologies in adequacy with their behaviour, uses, constraints and habits. We believe that both our results and the methods we use pave the way for future research questions in this field, and are of the greatest interest for professionals of the industry as well.