* Paulson kept 21.8 million shares of SPDR Gold Trust
* Resulted in paper loss of about $215 mln as gold slipped
* Soros, Robertson and PIMCO cut gold stakes
By Frank Tang
NEW YORK, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Prominent hedge fund manager
John Paulson continued to hold significant gold investments in
the fourth quarter of 2012, even as other investors pulled out.
Notable institutional investors, including George Soros,
Julian Robertson and Allianz's PIMCO reduced their
bets on gold during the quarter, when bullion posted its biggest
quarterly loss in more than four years.
(For a table showing fund ownership changes )
Paulson & Co owned 21.8 million shares in the world's
largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust
, at the end of December, unchanged from Sept. 30, a
filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission showed on
"That's a good sign as he's a big player. It shows that he
still has long-term faith in the market," said Bill O'Neill, a
partner in commodities investment firm LOGIC Advisors.
Paulson is by far the biggest shareholder of the SPDR gold
ETF. He has often advocated gold to offset risks related to
currency exposure and U.S. dollar depreciation.
The value of Paulson's SPDR ETF holdings, however, dropped
to $3.54 billion in the fourth quarter from $3.75 billion in the
third, resulting in a paper loss of $215.5 million for his fund.
The decline was because of a 5 percent, or $100, drop in the
price of spot gold during the fourth quarter.
Some analysts cited year-end hedge fund redemption for
gold's pullback in the quarter.
In December, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney recommended that
its financial advisers pull client money out of a Paulson fund.
Earlier in the year, Citigroup's private bank decided to
withdraw $410 million from Paulson & Co.
Besides the gold ETF, Paulson's firm also held onto
significant stakes in the shares of major gold mining companies,
including Barrick Gold Corp, AngloGold Ashanti Ltd
and about half a dozen others. He also had a stake in
Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc.
SOROS, ROBERTSON LESSEN GOLD BETS
Some other well-known managers were more bearish.
George Soros, who called gold "the ultimate bubble" in 2011,
reduced his position in SPDR Gold by more than a half to 600,000
shares in the fourth from 1.32 million in the third quarter.
Tiger Management's Julian Robertson dissolved his entire
stake in Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF, while he held
onto the Junior Gold Miners ETF.
Recent signs of recovery in the U.S. housing and jobs
markets also diminished gold's appeal as a hedge against
economic uncertainty, analysts said.
"If the equities market continue to roll higher here,
investors could divert more money away from gold in the near
term," O'Neill said.
Year to date, gold is down around 2.5 percent. It
traded at $1,635 an ounce on Thursday, just $10 above a
SPDR Gold Trust is the world's largest gold-backed,
exchange-traded fund, holding around 1,323 tonnes of gold
bullion. It is also among the world's top ETFs in terms of