Fairfax Financial reports 4th-quarter loss on hedges

Reuters

* Company loses as maintains equity hedges in strong market

* Fairfax CEO Watsa has hedged stock portfolio since 2010

TORONTO, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Fairfax Financial Corp, the Canadian property and casualty insurer run by veteran investor Prem Watsa, said on Thursday it had a loss in the fourth quarter, as its equity hedges lost money in a strong market.

The Toronto-based company said it had a net loss of $5.5 million, or a loss of 98 cents a share, in the fourth quarter. That compared with a profit of $406.4 million, or $18.82 a share, a year ago.

Fairfax, which has hedged its stock portfolio since 2010, lost a net $329.1 million on investments as losses on the equity hedges more than offset gains on equity holdings.

Fairfax Chief Executive Watsa said in a statement that the stock portfolio continues to be fully hedged, and that he expected unrealized losses to reverse in the future.

Since taking over the company in 1985, Watsa has built a reputation as a shrewd investor with moves such as betting against the U.S. housing market and then reaping huge profits when the market collapsed five years ago.

The company's latest big bet has been on hard-hit smartphone market BlackBerry Ltd. Fairfax is the top shareholder in the company.

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