Jana Partners Follows Paulson, Buys Gold

(Updates the original story to add background on activist investing and fund performance in the third and fourth paragraphs.)

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Hedge fund firm Jana Partners, taking a page out of billionaire investor John Paulson's playbook, made a $122 million bet on gold, according to its fourth-quarter regulatory filing.

New York-based Jana Partners bought 881,844 shares of the SPDR Gold Trust ( GLD) exchange traded fund, making it the fund's third-largest holding by value. Jana Partners joins other hedge funds that have made a bet on precious metals, including Paulson, whose Paulson & Co. hedge fund focused on gold last year after correctly betting on the housing decline in 2008. Paulson himself earned $5 billion last year as gold rose to a record.

Jana Partners was founded in April 2001 by Barry Rosenstein and takes an activist approach by targeting companies that are considering or implementing strategic changes, usually through management shuffling. Jana Partners is best known for pressure it exerted on pharmaceutical company Charles River Laboratories ( CRL), which remains a holding of the hedge fund. Jana Partners is the company's largest shareholder and last year opposed Charles Rivers' bid to acquire WuXi PharmaTech, a Chinese company. Charles River eventually terminated the deal and instead announced a $500 million stock-repurchase plan.

Jana Partners' Master Fund underperformed the broader market last year, returning 8.4% to the S&P 500's return of 15.1%, according to the firm's letter to shareholders reviewing the fourth quarter. The firm has an annualized return of 14.3% since inception, well ahead of the 2.8% annualized return of the S&P 500 over the same period.

Gold wasn't the only new position for the fund in the period ending Dec. 31. Jana Partners snagged more than 3.5 million shares of General Motors ( GM), which came public again through a $20 billion initial public offering in November. GM now represents Jana Partners' largest investment by value, at $130 million.

The hedge fund also took a new position in Visa ( V) in the fourth quarter by buying more than 1.5 million shares of the credit card network. Visa now represents the fund's No. 4 holding.

Among Jana Partners' other new positions in the quarter are Aeropostale ( ARO), Cablevision ( CVC), El Paso ( EP), Liberty Media ( LSTZA), Lyondellbasell ( LYB), National Fuel Gas ( NFG), Savient Pharmaceuticals ( SVNT), Vodafone ( VOD), Williams Companies ( WMB), and Zoran ( ZRAN).

Meanwhile, Jana Partners completely sold out of positions in Microsoft ( MSFT), RadioShack ( RSH), Hertz Global ( HTZ), Rite Aid ( RAD), Sprint Nextel ( S) and Xerox ( XRX), among others.

Hedge funds that manage more than $100 million are required to disclose their equity holdings, options and convertible debt on a Form 13F filed to the Securities and Exchange Commission within 45 days of the end of a quarter. Funds aren't required to report short positions betting declines.

-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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