Soros Dumps Google and Apple, Buys Banks

Well, one big gun is loving the banks and disliking tech stalwarts like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) right now, possibly because on a share-to-book value basis, the banks are trading at dirt cheap levels, while tech is on a tear.

Soros Fund Management, the New York hedge fund of billionaire George Soros, recently dumped all of its Google shares -- worth $168 million -- and halved its stake in Apple, says Harish Mali, an analyst with SNL Financial, a Wall Street research firm.

Meanwhile, Soros’ fund also added more stakes in big banks during the first quarter, buying Atlanta-based Suntrust Banks (NYSE:STI) as well as more shares in JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Fifth Third Bancorp (NASDAQ:FITB), Citigroup (NYSE:C), Regions Financial (NYSE:RF) and Capital One Financial (NYSE:COF).

The moves quadrupled the fund’s stock investment in banks to $196.5 million at March 31 from $47.6 million at the end of 2011, SNL’s Mali says.

But Soros' fund also dumped some big bank names, too, as it sold off all of its roughly 1.89 million shares in Cleveland-based KeyCorp (NYSE:KEY) and slashed its holding in Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE:WFC) by two-thirds, SNL’s Mali notes.

At the same time, Soros’ fund drastically sold off its stock holdings in the new media stocks SNL tracks, cutting its holdings to $85.5 million at March 31, 2012, from $238.3 million at Dec. 31, 2011.

This reduction “is mainly attributed to an exit from Google Inc.,” says Mali in a research note. “During the quarter, the Soros Fund sold off all 259,900 Google shares it held at the end of 2011. Its investment in Google amounted to $167.9 million using the closing price of Dec. 30, 2011.”

And Soros’ fund also more than halved its position in Apple, Mali says.

At the same time, the Soros Fund substantially raised its stake in St. Louis-based Charter Communications Inc. (NASDAQ:CHTR) and Englewood, Colo.-based DISH Network Corp (NASDAQ:DISH), Mali says.

Soros Fund also reported a stake in a gaming company, Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp. (NYSE"CZR), which completed an IPO in February this year, Mali notes, adding that “the stock was up by 50.6% as of May 17 from the IPO price of $9.”

The billionaire investor raised eyebrows recently when his fund more than tripled its holdings in the biggest exchange-traded gold fund, the SPDR Gold Trust, in the first quarter, while other big investors were standing pat, including investor John Paulson. The Soros fund dumped gold before it went on a tear last year, the fund’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show.