Quant Fund Sheds Shares In DirecTV

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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 Feb. 3 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, 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.

The filing gave no reason for the selloff. 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%.

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. DirecTV completed a $3 billion stock-repurchase plan in January and its board of directors has approved another $2 billion buyback plan this year.

DirecTV officials declined to comment on the Barclays sales.