Kerr Neilson’s $3 billion personal wealth has been created by the long-standing ‘out-performance’ by Platinum Asset Management’s various international investment funds.

The vast majority of Platinum’s $22 billion under management has come from retail investors because there weren’t any other successful international managers looking after the mum and dad investors.

Former UBS CEO Chris Mackay and his Deutsche Bank counterpart Hamish Douglass have clearly seen the opportunity of cutting Platinum’s lunch by establishing Magellan Financial Group with a business plan that involves replicating Kerr Neilson’s successful formula. On 23 March in Crikey, I posed the question:

The lads have identified global equities as their strength, which posed the obvious question: what do a couple of investment banking types know about international stock-picking?

Well, their first major punt has paid off. The 27 February update from the $378 million Magellan Flagship Fund revealed that the biggest investment to date was in controversial US student loans giant Sallie Mae, which has lent 10 million borrowers $US140 billion. The explanation was as follows:

SLM Corp is a fascinating situation in which we have established an A$21 million position and where we are very actively monitoring for further opportunities. In our view, SLM has substantial sustainable competitive advantages, can continue to reinvest capital into its very attractive private lending business, has a policy of returning free cashflow to shareholders via dividends and share buybacks, and can be purchased at a material discount to our assessment of intrinsic value.

Lo and behold, Sallie Mae is now being taken over by JP Morgan-Chase and two private equity firms for $US25 billion. The price is a whopping 50% premium to last week, although Magellan’s initial play was under water as this three month graph shows.

This circa $15 million windfall hasn’t helped units in the Magellan Flagship Fund, which dropped to a low of 95c yesterday after going ex an entitlement to a generously priced $42 million capital raising by its manager, Magellan Financial Group.

Whilst one good investment doesn’t make a fund manager, it’s an extraordinary start for Magellan as many other funds management types must look at the Platinum prospectus and ponder how they, too, can get in on the giggle.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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