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Harvard Management Company Bought Uber, Biopharmaceutical Stocks During Last Quarter of 2019

The Harvard Management Company manages Harvard's endowment and related financial holdings.
The Harvard Management Company manages Harvard's endowment and related financial holdings. By Steve S. Li
By Ellen M. Burstein and Camille G. Caldera, Crimson Staff Writers

The Harvard Management Company bought stock in Uber, decreased its shares in Facebook, and slightly lowered its overall securities value in the last quarter of 2019, per the University’s latest filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC requires investment managers who oversee over $100 million to disclose their securities holdings each quarter.

HMC purchased 1.8 million shares in the ride-hailing company — equivalent to $53.5 million in holdings — which went public in May 2019.

It also slightly reduced its overall securities value to $945 million this quarter after doubling the previous value to $1.07 billion last quarter. Still, the securities represent a relatively small percentage of Harvard’s endowment, which was valued at $40.9 billion in 2019.

HMC also bought nearly 3 million shares in NuCana Plc, a cancer-focused biopharmaceutical company. That figure amounts to around 9 percent of the company’s total shares, per another form Harvard filed with the SEC. The SEC requires companies to disclose stock ownership above 5 percent.

HMC spokesperson Patrick S. McKiernan declined to comment on the filings, citing HMC's policy not to comment on individual investments.

“HMC does not comment on specific investments,” McKiernan wrote in an email.

HMC also decreased its total shares in Facebook and Palo Alto Networks, selling 30 percent of its shares in Palo Alto Networks and nearly 40 percent of its shares in Facebook. The value of Harvard’s holdings in Facebook dropped from over $400 million to $283 million in the last quarter.

Additionally, it sold all of its shares in two companies: 43,000 shares of the software company Adobe Systems and 640,000 shares of the biopharmaceutical company Aduro Biotech.

Stephen T. Isaacs, the CEO of Aduro Biotech, said Gerald L. Chan — a major donor to the University — gifted Harvard around 7 million shares in the company. Isaacs estimated that Harvard received the gift around “a year and a half or two years ago.”

Chan, a member of Aduro Biotech’s board of directors from 2014 to 2018, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.

Isaacs said that Harvard has been selling the shares gradually since Chan gifted them.

“We appreciate that they didn't sell it all at once,” Isaacs said. “I think most academic institutions have a policy of, when they get shares, they sell them and take the cash and do whatever they're going to do. But this was a large gift — I think it was seven million shares or so — and so Harvard's been titrating it out over time.”

Isaacs said he was happy to hear that Harvard had sold the last of its shares in Aduro Biotech.

“I am glad the selling is done. In biotech we never like to see somebody sell large blocks of shares. It's challenging,” he said. “We wish Harvard well with the proceeds, using it for whatever they use it for.”

—Staff writer Ellen M. Burstein can be reached at ellen.burstein@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @ellenburstein.

—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at camille.caldera@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.

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