Soros Matches Paulson's Bet on Citi

George Soros makes a big bet on the comeback of Citigroup, matching a big bet made on the banking giant by fellow hedge fund giant John Paulson.
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NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- It has not been a market secret that famed hedge fund managers

George Soros and

John Paulson both have treasure chests of gold that would make pirate legend Yellowbeard jealous, but until yesterday, the market didn't know how much both hedge fund managers like

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

.

Citi has been anything but gold in the past few years, though the bank has been on the comeback trail, and the news late on Tuesday that both Soros and Paulson had been buying up shares of Citi in the fourth quarter 2009 sent shares of Citi trading higher by more than 2% on Wednesday during the pre-market session - a gain of 7 cents to $3.38. Citi shares had been below $1 in March 2009.

Soros bought 95 million shares of Citigroup during the fourth quarter, according to a quarterly filing on Tuesday. Soros' Citi buying spree equaled $313 million worth of Citi shares at year's end. It was a big move into Citi, as Soros had previously reported no exposure to Citigroup in quarterly filings.

Soros' bullish turn on Citi echoed the trading strategy of his hedge fund peer John Paulson, who has been a big backer of a banking sector recovery in general, and

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

and Citigroup specifically. While Paulson sold a few million of the 159 million Bank of America shares he owns in the fourth quarter, Paulson bulked up on Citi shares, buying an additional 200 million shares to take his overall stake in Citi to above 500 million shares.

Soros' bullish turn on Citigroup did not mean the hedge fund manager was relying any less on the importance of gold as a portfolio hedge, however. In fact, Soros almost tripled his gold holding, with 6.2 million shares of the SPDR Gold Trust owned at the end of 2009, up from 2.5 million shares of the gold exchange-traded fund held by Soros at the end of the third quarter.

Potash

(POT)

, which had been Buffett's largest holding in the third quarter 2009, was not listed in the quarterly filing for year-end, indicating the hedge fund manager may have sold the entire stake -- it had been Soros' largest holding -- or was actively trading the position at the present time, in which case he could file a separate confidential report with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Stocks favored by Soros in the fourth quarter included

Monsanto

(MON)

and Brazilian oil giant

Petrobras

(PBR) - Get Report

.

Soros increased his stake on Monsanto from approximately one million shares to near four million shares, while slightly increasing an already large bet on Petrobras by 300,000 shares.

Monsanto was up 1.5% in the pre-market on Wednesday, or $1.11, to $78.40. Petrobras' ADR shares were up 1.3% on Wednesday morning, or a gain of 58 cents to $42.20 in the pre-market session.

Ford

(F) - Get Report

was also a Soros buy, with the hedge fund manager adding more than 3 million shares of the car market, to a stake of 10.9 million shares.

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

and

Hess

(HES) - Get Report

were other stocks in which Soros added to existing positions.

Ford was up by 1% in the pre-market on Wednesday to $11.43, while AT&T was up 0.7% to $25.50. Hess shares were up by 9 cents in the pre-market Tuesday, to $60.55.

The hedge fund greats were not the only famed investors to release their quarterly buys and sells on Tuesday, as

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway also released its fourth quarter moves.

RELATED STORIES:

>>Stockpicker Portfolios: Warren Buffett

>>Stockpickr Portfolios: John Paulson

>>Stockpickr Portfolios: George Soros

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