Citadel expects to return about $7bn in profits to its clients on the back of what is expected to be its most profitable year ever, said people familiar with the firm, highlighting the banner year some hedge funds have had even as others nurse deep wounds.

Citadel’s flagship fund gained about 32% for the year through November, benefiting from bets across the firm’s strategies, the people said. The firm plans to return some profits from all four of its funds in early January but still expects to start 2023 with more than $50bn in assets under management, one of the people said.

Others up significantly this year, including Two Sigma, Brevan Howard Asset Management and D.E. Shaw, also have told clients in certain funds they plan to return some profits, people familiar with the firms said. Bloomberg News earlier reported D.E. Shaw was returning some profits to clients and raising fees.

The war in Ukraine and the parade of Federal Reserve interest-rate hikes have helped create what investors are calling a regime change in markets, benefiting trading-oriented hedge-fund strategies that thrive on volatility and punishing those that make leveraged bets on fast-growing companies. While Tiger Global Management and other growth-focused hedge funds have issued mea culpas and had years of huge gains erased practically overnight, funds that bet on global macroeconomic shifts and those built on a multimanager-platform model, like Citadel, have flourished in one of the widest divergences industry veterans can recall.

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The gains Citadel and the others have notched are all the more noteworthy in a year in which the S&P 500 is down a total of 18.6% through 20 December and a traditional portfolio made up of 60% global stocks and 40% U.S. bonds, including dividends, has lost about 14%.

Some managers are pressing their hot hand to win more advantageous terms from their clients. Macro firm Caxton Associates has told clients it is raising performance fees for certain share classes of its flagship fund, Caxton Global, from 22.5% to 25% starting 1 March, according to people familiar with the firm. The fund gained nearly 15% this year through November. D.E. Shaw is raising performance fees on its three biggest funds to as high as 40%.

It isn’t unusual for funds to return cash in good years — some academic data suggests the best returns come from smaller funds. Clients typically have mixed feelings about it, saying they hand money to their managers to invest and that returns of profits require them to make that decision again. They also say it removes money from parts of their portfolio that are working, whereas they might prefer to exit at least partially from those that aren’t doing well.

This year, some investors are welcoming the cash because the liquid parts of their portfolios have sold off as stocks and bonds suffer double-digit losses, leaving few places for them to turn to for gains they can harvest to meet capital calls or invest tactically.

Billionaire Kenneth Griffin’s Citadel has myriad portfolio managers running their own books of investments within risk limits the firm sets and monitors. Miami-based Citadel has returned some profits most years in the recent past but rarely this much; in the five prior years, it returned more than $11bn to clients in total.

This year continues a strong run of performance for Citadel, which LCH Investments last year estimated is the second-most-profitable hedge-fund manager of all time, after Bridgewater Associates. LCH started in 1969 and bills itself as the oldest fund-of-hedge-funds in the world.

New York-based Two Sigma expects to return 15% of clients’ money in its Spectrum fund, a quantitative-equities vehicle that gained 8% for the year through November, by the end of December, said people familiar with the firm. Two Sigma managed $61bn as of 1 December.

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The $30bn macro firm Brevan Howard is returning some money to clients in its two flagship funds, the Brevan Howard Master Fund and the Brevan Howard Alpha Strategies Master Fund.

Clients in the most liquid share class of the Master fund are slated to get back profits from 2022, plus 15% of their remaining money in the fund. Those wishing to reinvest in the hedge fund would have to do so via the only share class due to accept inflows in the first quarter, one that charges pass-through fees to clients, including traders’ compensation. Such structures typically result in higher fees for clients. Several clients said the changes appeared aimed, at least in part, at reducing the amount of money in share classes with more investor-friendly terms.

A person familiar with Brevan Howard said such fee structures have become the norm among platform-style funds using multiple portfolio managers. The $10.5bn Master fund gained around 18% for the year through 2 December while the $12.2bn Alpha Strategies fund was up 26.7%.

Write to Juliet Chung at Juliet.Chung@wsj.com

This article was published by The Wall Street Journal, part of Dow Jones

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