Anson Funds Management returned 18.2 per cent in its main strategy last year, boosted by gains on investments in which the Canadian hedge fund manager took an activist role. 

It marked the sixth straight year of positive returns for the Anson Investments Master Fund, which beat the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Canada’s main equity benchmark but trailed the S&P 500. The fund has increased investors’ capital 10-fold since its inception in 2007, according to an investor letter seen by Bloomberg. 

The US$1.8 billion fund’s top-performing position was U.K. homebuilder Vistry Group Plc, which acquired rival Countryside Partnerships in 2022. Anson pushed for that transaction and is working with management to reshape the company’s capital structure and compensation, Chief Investment Officer Moez Kassam said in the letter. 

Vistry’s shares rose 47 per cent in London 2023, while Twilio Inc. and Globalstar Inc., two other firms in which Anson says it has played an activist role, jumped 55 per cent and 46 per cent, respectively.

Anson discussed the Globalstar position at the Bloomberg Activism Forum in December, arguing that the satellite company should put itself for sale if plans to monetize spectrum don’t deliver adequate financial returns.  

Anson, which is managed out of offices in Toronto and Dallas, hired Sagar Gupta from activist investor Legion Partners last year and “ramped considerably,” Kassam wrote. Legion is also an investor in Twilio, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 

Anson’s short positions in a basket of cryptocurrency stocks, including exchanges and crypto miners, weighed on the fund’s performance. But Kassam said in the letter he expects the theme to contribute to returns this year. 

Earlier this month, U.S. regulators approved exchange-traded funds that invest directly in Bitcoin, a move that digital-asset acolytes have heralded as a landmark event. Bitcoin jumped 157 per cent last year in U.S. dollars, partly because of anticipation that ETFs will drive increased demand for the asset class. 

“In 2024, not only do we expect the euphoria driven by the ETF approval to subside, but in April, the Bitcoin halving event will reduce revenues dramatically for the miners, impairing economics at current Bitcoin prices,” Kassam said.