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The A,B,Cs of Hedge Funds: Alphas, Betas, and Costs

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  • Roger Ibbotson
  • Peng Chen

Abstract

In this paper, we focus on two issues. First, we analyze the potential biases in reported hedge fund returns, in particular survivorship bias and backfill bias, and attempt to create an unbiased return sample. Second, we decompose these returns into their three A,B,C components: the value added by hedge funds (alphas), the systematic market exposures (betas), and the hedge fund fees (costs). We analyze the performance of a universe of about 3,500 hedge funds from the TASS database from January 1995 through April 2006. Our results indicate that both survivorship and backfill biases are potentially serious problems. The equally weighted performance of the funds that existed at the end of the sample period had a compound annual return of 16.45% net of fees. Including dead funds reduced this return to 13.62%. Excluding backfill further reduced the return to 8.98%, net of fees. In this last sample, we estimate a pre-fee return of 12.72%, which we split into a fee (3.74%), an alpha (3.04%), and a beta return (5.94%). Overall, even after correcting for data biases, we find that the alphas are significantly positive and are approximately equal to the fees, meaning that excess returns were shared roughly equally between hedge fund managers and their investors.

Suggested Citation

  • Roger Ibbotson & Peng Chen, 2005. "The A,B,Cs of Hedge Funds: Alphas, Betas, and Costs," Yale School of Management Working Papers amz2597, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Sep 2005.
  • Handle: RePEc:ysm:somwrk:amz2597
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    File URL: http://icfpub.som.yale.edu/publications/2597
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Liang, Bing, 2000. "Hedge Funds: The Living and the Dead," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 35(03), pages 309-326, September.
    2. Posthuma, Nolke & Sluis, Pieter Jelle van der, 2003. "A Reality Check on Hedge Funds Returns," Serie Research Memoranda 0017, VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Econometrics.
    3. Fung, William & Hsieh, David A, 1997. "Empirical Characteristics of Dynamic Trading Strategies: The Case of Hedge Funds," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 10(2), pages 275-302.
    4. Anne C Jansen & Donald J Mathieson & Barry J. Eichengreen & Laura E. Kodres & Bankim Chadha & Sunil Sharma, 1998. "Hedge Funds and Financial Market Dynamics," IMF Occasional Papers 166, International Monetary Fund.
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    Keywords

    hedge fund; costs; alpha; beta; returns; sources;

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