Barclays Global Investment Fund, one of the biggest quantitative funds on Wall Street, has sold about 45 million shares of DirecTV Group over the past 12 months, reducing its holdings in the satellite TV giant from more than 6% of its outstanding stock to less than 3%.
According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday, Barclays owns about 27.9 million shares of DirecTV, or about 2.7% of its outstanding stock. On April 4, 2008 Barclays had owned about 73.5 million DirecTV shares, or about 6.4% of its outstanding stock, according to SEC documents. That's a difference of about 45.6 million shares.
The filing gave no reason for the sell-off. DirecTV stock had been the top performer among cable and satellite stocks in 2008 - it was down less than 1% for the year, while its counterpart Dish Network fell 66.5%.
DirecTV shares were up by 48 cents each (2.2%) to $22.55 per share on Feb. 3.
Barclays began beefing up on DirecTV stock a few years ago and grew quickly to its third-largest shareholder behind Liberty Media (52%) and Southeastern Asset Management (6.6%). Southeastern has since reduced its DirecTV holdings to about 50 million shares, or 4.4% of its outstanding stock.
Barclays is a quantitative fund, essentially one that automatically buys and trades stocks based on complicated computer models. BGI is one of the largest quant funds in the world with about $2 trillion under management.
Quant funds have been hit hard in the past year, as pension funds - some of their biggest investors - have pulled out as the stock market became increasingly volatile.
Just who Barclays sold those DirecTV shares to is a mystery, although the satellite TV giant itself has been a heavy buyer of its own stock. In January, DirecTV said it had completed a $3 billion stock repurchase plan it initiated in May. The company said that its board of directors had approved another $2 billion buyback plan this year.
DirecTV officials declined to comment on the Barclays sales.