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Hedge fund king Ken Griffin loses millions on British Airways bet

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British Airways
British Airways

One of the world’s wealthiest hedge fund managers has lost millions of pounds after shares in the owner of British Airways took off.

Ken Griffin, a Chicago-based financier worth more than $21bn (£15.6bn), placed a multimillion-pound bet against IAG just hours before new data revealed the omicron variant had not dented airline bookings.

A spokesman said the timing of the bet related to the movement of trades originally made in November and December from one of his funds to another.

Two of Mr Griffin's funds hold a 1.66pc short position, a bet of about £130m, against the BA owner.

IAG shares jumped more than 11pc on the first working day of the year and made further gains on Wednesday.

The stock is trading at 160p, valuing the company at almost £8bn.

Mr Griffin's Citadel was not the only hedge fund to be hit by renewed optimism about fortunes of the airlines sector.

London-based Sandbar Asset Management amassed bets of £110m against the London-listed IAG, easyJet and Wizz Air on Dec 30.

A large Republican donor, Mr Griffin said he would bankroll the party’s candidate for the governorship of his home state of Illinois this year - a position held by another billionaire, JB Pritzker.

Last November he paid $43m for a copy of the US constitution at a Sotheby’s auction following a bidding war against cryptocurrency traders.

Airline stocks have risen after carriers said bookings were significantly higher than 12 months ago.

On Wednesday, Ryanair said it had flown 9.5m passengers in December, up from 1.9m for the same month in 2020.

Wizz Air said on Tuesday it was flying at 80pc of pre-pandemic levels despite the impact of the new variant.

The easyJet chief executive, Johan Lundgren, has said he expects the budget airline to be back to normal this summer. Shares rose 2.7pc to 624p, roughly the same price as the start of 2021.

And in a further boon to the sector, the Government is to stop asking passengers for pre-departure Covid tests and will drop a requirement for a confirmatory PCR test if they test positive on their return.

The UK’s testing regime has been blamed by airline bosses for putting Britons off from flying.

Citadel declined to comment further.

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