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Dan Loeb Sees a 'Huge Game Change' in Japan

Thursday, 9 May 2013 | 9:05 PM ET
Daniel Loeb, founder and chief executive officer of Third Point LLC
Jacob Kepler | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Daniel Loeb, founder and chief executive officer of Third Point LLC

Aggressive fiscal and monetary policy coupled with structural reforms are presenting huge investment opportunities in Japan, widely followed hedge fund manager Dan Loeb said.

Speaking at the Skybridge Alternatives, or SALT, conference in Las Vegas, the founder and CEO of Third Point, with $13 billion under management, said the slow-moving Japanese economy is ready for a breakout.

"We're really focused on Japan," he said.

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Loeb spoke during a wide-ranging interview conducted by Skybridge partner and the man behind the SALT conference, Anthony Scaramucci. Loeb's comments ostensibly were off the record, but multiple media outlets reported on the talk.

He spoke with passion about a number of subjects, including what makes a successful hedge fund manager and his much-publicized dispute with fellow fund titan Bill Ackman.

High among his many passions is Japan, where a once-dead economy has sprung to life.

The Bank of Japan, under the direction of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has launched a U.S.-style quantitative easing program that has helped spur a huge rally in risk assets.

Japanese stocks in 2013 alone have risen 37 percent as the yen has fallen 16 percent against the U.S. dollar.

(Read More: Dollar Hits 4-Year High, Piercing Key 100-Yen Mark)

At the same time, the country has embarked on other efforts to strengthen productivity and engage in structural economic reforms.

"It's a huge game change, and there's a lot more room to go," Loeb said of the yen's decline. "The structural reform, which should be announced before the election, is going to really be the big game changer over there."

Loeb did not make any specific recommendations on where to invest in Japan but compared the growth to the 1980s before the country began its "Lost Decade."

(Read More: The Race to Cut Rates: Just Look What Japan Started)

"We have the potential to get this right, to have a similar kind of massive improvement in the performance of Japanese corporations with the backdrop of the support of government," he said. "It's a really critical time."

The Japan comments came during a lively session in front of nearly 2,000 hedge fund managers and other industry professionals.

Loeb afterwards told CNBC that Third Point no longer holds a position in Herbalife, the nutritional and diet supplement company that spurred a three-way battle featuring Ackman of Pershing Square Capital on the short side and Loeb and billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn on the long side.

(Look Back: Icahn, Ackman in Epic Showdown of Billionaires)

"We did the same amount of footwork this guy apparently did," Loeb said in a clear shot at his former friend Ackman. "He was studying the company for 17 years before he even revealed his secret to the world."

He also talked about his successful bets on sovereign debt, particularly in Argentina and Greece, which has been the top performer among global asset classes after nearly imploding under an onerous debt burden.

"It came down to two things: One, a view on Greece itself, but also a broader view on Europe," Loeb said. "When (European Central Bank President Mario) Draghi tells you there's no leaving the euro, you better believe him."

For Loeb, a good fund manager pays attention to surroundings, but more importantly has the right goals.

(Read More: Reviving Hedge Funds Still Have S&P 500 Envy)

And it's about more than making money, even if the hedge fund industry is perceived in some quarters as being built on greed.

"Really examine why you're doing it," he said. "There's nothing wrong with wanting to make a lot of money. But if that's your primary reason for starting a hedge fund, it's not enough. What you really need to be is someone who's super-passionate."

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