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Funds Holding Firm Amid Deal Frenzy

Top mutual-fund investors in the cable industry released fourth-quarter holdings and, for the most part, seemed to be holding steady in cable, despite the deal frenzy sweeping through the sector.

While Janus Capital, a traditionally large holder of Comcast shares, has not yet released its status report, enough big institutional holders have that a growing trend has emerged.

They are staying the course.

They’re standing pat during a period in which Charter Communications was gearing up for a lengthy proxy fight for Time Warner Cable, before Comcast struck a deal with TWC to bypass Charter and merge outright.

Most of the large funds made only minor adjustments. The Vanguard Group was among the bigger buyers, adding 1.3 million Cablevision Systems shares and 1.35 million Comcast shares between Sept. 30 and Dec. 31.

The biggest seller — State Street Corp., shedding about 2.4 million shares of Comcast — made minor tweaks to its other distributor holdings. It added 160,000 Cablevision shares and 260,000 Charter shares.

One analyst who asked not to be named said that while it seems that some large investors are taking a wait-and-see attitude for the sector, it is difficult to draw conclusions.

“They are like oil tankers,” the analyst said. “They may hate something and it takes quarters for them to get out. It’s better to watch what the hedge funds are doing [to gauge] short-term sentiment.”

Even hedge funds, whose reports were beginning to trickle in last week, have shown caution.

The BlackRock Institutional Trust, part of BlackRock Inc. — one of the largest investment managers in the world, with about $3.67 trillion in assets under management (and a major holder of Charter and Time Warner Cable stock) — kept its cable holdings relatively stable in the fourth quarter, adding just 70,000 Charter shares and paring back its Time Warner Cable stock by about 200,000 shares.