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Up big, hedge fund Conatus poaches from SAC, others

Kiyoshi Ota - Getty Images

David Stemerman's fast growing hedge fund firm, Greenwich,Conn.-based Conatus Capital Management, has poached talent from other leading investment managers in the last few months.

Among the firm's major targets are top hedge funds SAC Capital Advisors and GLG Partners and private equity shop Thomas H. Lee Partners, according to an investor letter obtained by CNBC.com.

Dave Tompkins was hired recently as a senior consumer analystat the equity-focused hedge fund. He was most recently a portfolio manager at SAC unit CR Intrinsic and had previously worked as consumer sector co-head at Shumway Capital and as a senior consumer analyst at Tudor Investment Corp.

It wasn't immediately clear if Tompkins' move was part of $15 billion SAC's recently announced downsizing. A spokesman for the firm declined to comment.

(Read more: SAC retrenches as insider trading probe drains firm)

Another addition to Conatus is James MacKendree as head of business development and investor relations. He was most recently co-head of business development for North America at $27.7 billion GLG Partners.

MacKendree will try to add to Conatus' already rising assets under management. The firm, founded in 2007, ran $2.25 billion on Dec. 31, 2012 but now manages $2.74 billion.

Conatus also recently hired Chris Philips as a senior financials analyst from $14.2 billion Thomas H. Lee, where he was an associate, and Samia Bahu as a research assistant from $1.7 billion private equity firm Newbury Partners.

Scott Tagliarino, a spokesperson for Conatus with public relations firm ASC Advisors, declined to comment.

(Read more: Here's another activist fund having a huge year)

Performance has been strong. Conatus Capital Partners rose 3.2 percent net of fees in the third quarter, bringing the fund to a 12.7 percent gain for the year through September. That's better than the Absolute Return U.S. Equity Index benchmark of 8.97 percent over the same period.

Recent winning stocks include Gulfport Energy, Pioneer Natural Resources, Facebook, LinkedIn and Amazon.com, according to the Oct. 16 letter. Asia stocks Tencent, Ctrip.com, Alibaba and European equities EADS and Volkswagen also performed well.

New positions over the third quarter include Adobe Systems, B/E Aerospace, McGraw Hill Financial, McKesson, Moody's, Softbank, Starbucks and Twenty-First Century Fox.

On Japanese telecommunications and internet company Softbank, Stemerman wrote that "our sum of the parts analysis yields a valuation materially higher than where shares currently trade."

(Read more: Japan's SoftBank to pay $1bn for Brightstar stake)

On Chinese travel company Ctrip, Stemerman said the company's expansion into mobile and web services positions it well for the growing Chinese market.

Stemerman, a veteran of Stephen Mandel's Lone Pine Capital, also noted a new short position in an undisclosed Canadian grocery company.

"One company has among the highest operating margins of any grocer in the world despite having the limited scale of a regional producer," he wrote, noting increased competition from Wal-Mart, Target and Loblaw.

"We believe that this company's industry leading margins are a consequence of prices that are higher than the competition. This high price position makes the company highly vulnerable as lower-priced competitors gain traction."

Besides Loblaw, top Canadian retail chains include Metro and Empire, which owns Sobeys.

(Read more: Grocer Loblaw to eliminate about 275 jobs)

—By CNBC's Lawrence Delevingne. Follow him on Twitter @ldelevingne.

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