Billionaire Dan Loeb’s Cheap Stock Picks

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Dan Loeb of Third Point has become a billionaire due to his success in both value investing and as an activist shareholder. The most comprehensive picture of what Third Point or any other hedge fund owns comes in the form of quarterly 13F filings (see the list of stocks Third Point most recently reported owning); we use these disclosures to analyze individual managers’ stock picks as well as to develop investment strategies (for example, we have found that the most popular small cap stocks among hedge funds provide an excess return of 18 percentage points per year). We can also see which stocks a hedge fund likes according to a number of screens for sector or for valuation. Here are Loeb’s five largest positions by market value in stocks with both trailing and forward P/E multiples less than 14:

Delphi

Delphi Automotive (NYSE: DLPH) was one of Loeb’s top stock picks overall, with the 13F reporting a position of 10 million shares. Delphi, an auto parts manufacturer specializing in electrical, electronic, and powertrain systems, experienced a decline in earnings last quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2011 primarily due to reduced margins. Auto related companies are of interest to many value investors who point to a historically old U.S. consumer auto fleet and to low earnings multiples- in Delphi’s case, the trailing P/E is 13. Analyst expectations have it priced at 9 times forward earnings estimates.

Murphy Oil

Third Point added shares of Murphy Oil (NYSE: MUR) during the fourth quarter of 2012 and closed December with a total of 6.2 million shares in its portfolio. Loeb has suggested that the integrated oil and gas company spin out one or more of its business units, such as its retail gas stations. The stock carries trailing and forward P/E multiples of 12 and 10, respectively, but spinouts often have the effect of creating shareholder value as management becomes better able to focus on the new business’s core operations. We’d suggest following the stock but not buying unless there are further positive developments.

Tesoro

The fund initiated a position of 3.7 million shares in Tesoro (NYSE: TSO), an $8 billion market cap company which operates midstream energy assets and retail gas stations. Loeb’s stated thesis here has been that investors are undervaluing many of Tesoro’s refining assets including a new acquisition of a refinery previously owned by BP. The stock has already more than doubled from its levels a year ago, but is still arguably cheap at an enterprise value of 4x trailing EBITDA and earnings multiples of around 10 as well. The five-year PEG ratio is 0.8 as the sell-side expects significant earnings growth.

Herbalife

The 13F shows that Loeb bought 3.1 million shares of Herbalife (NYSE: HLF)- likely after being unimpressed with billionaire Bill Ackman’s presentation arguing for shorting the stock and seeing the price collapse. Find Ackman's favorite stocks. Of course, fellow billionaire Carl Icahn has become the highest-profile Herbalife long following a charged argument with Ackman on CNBC but this is a sizable position for Third Point as well. Certainly on a quantitative basis Herbalife is cheap at 10 times trailing earnings, though short interest remains high and some of Ichan’s proposed moves (including a buyout) seem unlikely given concerns that- at least in the long run- Herbalife is a pyramid scheme.

Agrium

A somewhat lower profile battle is brewing at Agrium (NYSE: AGU) where Barry Rosenstein’s JANA Partners has called for a breakup of the company’s wholesale and retail businesses. Agrium sells agricultural products through these two channels, and its earnings multiples clock in at 10 or slightly higher. Last quarter revenue edged up 3% compared to the fourth quarter of 2011, and while earnings growth was high in percentage terms that growth rate is not sustainable. Agrium’s management has resisted JANA’s move, and as a result we think it is another candidate for a watchlist rather than a portfolio.

Conclusion

Blindly imitating fund managers like Loeb isn’t always a good idea, but we think that treating 13F filings as a source of ideas- including less well known companies- can be useful. Investors who become interested in a company or its industry after a brief look can do more research and potentially identify good picks for their own portfolio.


This article is written by Matt Doiron and edited by Meena Krishnamsetty. InsiderMonkey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has the following options: Long Jan 2014 $50 Calls on Herbalife Ltd.. 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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