Will These Value Picks Save Billionaire John Paulson?

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John Paulson of Paulson & Co. became famous- and a billionaire- for his short of subprime mortgage related investments at the peak of the housing bubble, and followed it up with a good return on gold. However, his performance in the last two years has been remarkably poor. We decided to look at some of his recent value stock picks to see if they are good investments that could help him get back on track, as well as to see if they make sense for other investors’ portfolios. Here are the five largest holdings by market value in Paulson’s 13F portfolio for the third quarter of the year (see the full list of Paulson's stock picks) with trailing and forward P/E multiples of 13 or lower.

Even after cutting 22% of its stake, Paulson owned 25 million shares of Delphi Automotive (NYSE: DLPH), making it the third largest holding in the fund’s portfolio behind a gold miner and the GLD ETF. Delphi is an auto parts company whose products include electrical, electronic, and power train components. It trades at 9 times trailing earnings, and Wall Street analysts predict strong growth for the company: its forward P/E is 8 and its five-year PEG ratio is only 0.5. Fellow billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management owed 28.5 million shares of Delphi at the end of the third quarter (check out Singer's stock picks), though like Paulson Elliott had been selling shares. We think that it looks cheap, though other auto related companies might be even better buys.

Wireless phone provider MetroPCS Communications (NYSE: TMUS) was another cheap Paulson pick at 13 times consensus earnings for 2013. The fund initiated a position of about 24 million shares between July and September. York Capital Management, which is managed by billionaire James Dinan, also bought shares of MetroPCS during the quarter (find more stocks Dinan likes). MetroPCS’s net income was up strongly last quarter, but revenue growth was much more modest. In addition, 10% of the outstanding shares are held short and we think that we would avoid the stock.

HCA Holdings (NYSE: HCA), a $15 billion market cap hospital company, was another of Paulson’s favorite stocks. HCA trades at 9 times forward earnings estimates, even though its revenue was 11% higher in the third quarter versus a year earlier (earnings were abnormally high). Many other hospital stocks also look cheap, possibly in part because of uncertainty as to how new healthcare policies will affect the industry (HCA popped about 10% on the day that President Obama’s healthcare plan was ruled constitutional, suggesting that it is very sensitive to the specifics of how the plan will be implemented).

Paulson also liked CNO Financial Group (NYSE: CNO), with the fund owning 22.5 million shares of the stock at the end of September. CNO is a health and life insurance company, and it is priced at quite a discount to book value at a P/B ratio of 0.4. The trailing P/E multiple is 11, and revenue has been up. It’s also a popular short candidate, but the stock looks like a good enough value that it’s worth further investigation.

The fund sold shares of Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE: COF) but still owned 2.2 million shares according to the 13F. Capital One is another financial stock selling at a discount to the book value of its equity- the P/B ratio here is 0.9- and at fairly reasonable earnings multiples as well, the company has in fact been able to monetize these assets. Its revenue and earnings have been doing well, though the company needs only limited growth to justify a trailing P/E of 10. 

This article is written by Matt Doiron and edited by Meena Krishnamsetty. They don't own shares in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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