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Fairfax Financial reports fourth-quarter loss on hedges

Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Prem Watsa speaks during the company's annual meeting in Toronto April
Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Prem Watsa speaks during the company's annual meeting in Toronto April

TORONTO (Reuters) - Fairfax Financial Corp , the Canadian property and casualty insurer run by veteran investor Prem Watsa, said on Thursday it had a loss in the fourth quarter, as its equity hedges lost money in a strong market.

The Toronto-based company said it had a net loss of $5.5 million, or a loss of 98 cents a share, in the fourth quarter. That compared with a profit of $406.4 million, or $18.82 a share, a year ago.

Fairfax, which has hedged its stock portfolio since 2010, lost a net $329.1 million on investments as losses on the equity hedges more than offset gains on equity holdings.

Fairfax Chief Executive Watsa said in a statement that the stock portfolio continues to be fully hedged, and that he expected unrealized losses to reverse in the future.

Since taking over the company in 1985, Watsa has built a reputation as a shrewd investor with moves such as betting against the U.S. housing market and then reaping huge profits when the market collapsed five years ago.

The company's latest big bet has been on hard-hit smartphone market BlackBerry Ltd . Fairfax is the top shareholder in the company.

(Reporting by Cameron French; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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