Sandy Nairn’s Edinburgh Partners’ Top Stock Picks for Q3

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Hedge funds are required to submit 13F filings to the SEC within several weeks of the quarter’s end to disclose many of their long equity positions in U.S. stocks as of the end of the quarter. We’ve found in our research on 13Fs that they can be useful in developing investment strategies; for example, the most popular small cap stocks among hedge funds earn an average excess return of 18 percentage points per year.

Edinburgh Partners, a hedge fund managed by Sandy Nairn with an estimated more than $13 billion in assets under management, has already filed its 13F for the second quarter of 2013.

As such, this is a fairly up-to-date look at what the fund owns, and while we don’t recommend blindly imitating Edinburgh’s picks, it can be useful to treat them as a list of free investment ideas and do further research on any interesting names. Read on for our thoughts on the fund’s five largest holdings, see the full filing on the SEC website, or research Edinburgh's holdings over time.

Top dog

Nairn cut his stake in Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), but still owned a little over 6 million shares at the end of the quarter. With the technology company’s stock price doing well during the quarter, it was his largest holding by market value. Microsoft is currently trying to reorganize, and was actually a top performer among the Dow in the first half of the year before poor Q2 results dragged the stock price down 12%.

As a result of the market’s reaction to the poor results, the forward earnings multiple is currently 9, but that may be reliant on a temporary boost to earnings from the sales of new versions of Windows and Office.

Another tech pick

Another tech stock which is among Edinburgh’s largest positions despite net sales between April and June is Google (NASDAQ: GOOG). In the second quarter of 2013, Google’s net income grew 16% versus a year earlier as the advertising business continues to do well and management integrates the acquisition of Motorola Mobility.

Wall Street analysts expect earnings per share to continue to rise, with consensus forecasts calling for $53.30 in EPS next year. At current prices, that makes for a forward P/E of 17. If Google can continue its good growth numbers beyond that point, it might be a candidate for “growth at a reasonable price” status.

The best of the rest

The fund initiated a position of 5.2 million shares in Tyco International (NYSE: TYC) during the second quarter of 2013. The fire protection and electronic security company spun out two of its business units recently, and bulls are expecting that this will allow management to focus more on the core business and therefore improve operations.

With a forward earnings multiple of 16, investors are counting on at least some improvement on the bottom line, whether it comes through this kind of better management or if Tyco is able grow its earnings (so far this year, growth in SG&A expenses has more than offset small rises in revenue).

Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI), a $25 billion market cap company specializing in building circulation systems and auto interior products, was another of Nairn’s largest holdings with the filing disclosing ownership of 4.7 million shares. Revenue and earnings have been down according to recent reports, but the sell-side seems to be expecting Johnson Controls to recover somewhat: consensus forecasts for the fiscal year ending in September 2014 imply a forward P/E of 12. Still, we think that we would want to see better results from the business before thinking of it as a potential value opportunity.

Recent times haven’t been good for cruise ships; for example Carnival (NYSE: CCL) is down slightly over the last two years while the S&P 500 has risen about 25%. Edinburgh increased the size of its position in Carnival to 4.9 million shares by the beginning of July, apparently believing that the market has overreacted.

Analysts are looking for a decline in earnings in the current quarter (which ends in August and is a crucial one for Carnival’s seasonal business) and for only $1.55 in EPS for the current fiscal year, which would make for a P/E of 23 -- high enough for us to avoid it for now.

Final thoughts

While we don’t know Sandy Nairn and Edinburgh Partners’ return figures in 2013, it’s clear that they’re probably having a half-way decent year (at the very least), as their top two picks have been two of tech’s top dogs: Microsoft and Google. Tyco is more of a special situation play, while Johnson Controls is a value play and Carnival is a contrarian opportunity. We’ll be watching each of these five companies closely for the remainder of the year.

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This article is written by Matt Doiron and edited by Meena Krishnamsetty. Meena has long positions in Microsoft and Google. The Motley Fool recommends Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Microsoft. 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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