Hedge Funds - Where's The Edge?
Shmulik is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Hedge funds, the most sophisticated investing vehicles in the financial world have had another mediocre year. The HFRX, a widely used measure of industry returns, is up by just 3% in 2012, compared with an 18% rise in the S&P 500 share index. Although it might be possible to shrug off one year’s under-performance, it seems that their problems extend way beyond 2012.
According to The Economist, The S&P 500 has now outperformed its hedge-fund rival for ten straight years, with the exception of 2008. A simple-minded investment portfolio—60% of it in shares and the rest in sovereign bonds—has delivered returns of more than 90% over the past decade, compared with a meager 17% after fees for hedge funds. And for that "fabulous" returns, clients pay through the nose, with a fee structure of 2% of annual assets and 20% profit sharing. Basically, investors are paying very expensive fees for very mediocre results
What has been is long gone
This has not been the case in the past. Years ago, hedge funds actually made a lot of money for their clients. But there are two main reasons why this has changed.
- Crowded market: Over the past 10 years, everyone decided they wanted to launch a new hedge fund. In practice, many of these funds employ the same strategies. Today, hedge-fund assets are at a record $2.2 trillion and most of this money ends up chasing the same opportunities. This, in turn, means fewer opportunities and mediocre results.
- A low yield world: In a world of expanding credit and falling cost of capital (the bond bull market between 1980 and 2010), returns came easy. Hedge-fund managers could produce acceptable returns by borrowing money at low interest rates and investing that cash into high-yielding fixed-income assets. Nowadays, high- yielding income assets are scarce to non-existent. This is a massive hit to hedge fund managers and their results.
The much safer alternative
I believe that by investing in a distressed sector, you are more than likely to easily outperform any hedge fund. The most distressed sector today is the technology sector. This sector hasn't benefited from the latest rally in equities and was left behind. Following the Dot.Com bubble back in 2000, many individuals are squeamish about getting back in the sector. Companies that traded at P/E multiples of 50x and up back in 2000, are barely scratching the double digit territory. Here are my three favorite companies that will outperform in 2013:
- Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT): The virtual monopoly in the operating system world trades at a forward P/E of only 8.7x and price/book of 3.18. You might think that this cheap valuation tag is a result of the company's stagnant growth, but this is not the case - Mr. Softy trades at a PEG of 1.14. The company is producing earnings at a mouthwatering gross profit margin of 35% and has a dividend yield of 3.6%. It's practically a super profit machine trading at a price of an old sewing machine.
- Intel (NASDAQ: INTC): Another example of a virtual monopoly, Intel has an 80% share of the semiconductor market. The giant trades at a measly P/E of 10x, and a PEG of 0.8. Last year, Intel earned more than $20 billion in cash. With this huge profit, Intel spent more than $16 billion returning capital to its owners via cash dividends ($4 billion) and share buybacks ($12 billion). In short, shareholders at Intel kept 80% of the profits. Now, That is what I call a shareholder friendly company. Shares of Intel have lagged the market by 35% (!) in the past year alone.
- Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO): The market dominating manufacturer of networking products is trading at a forward P/E of 10 and price/sales of 2. Cisco increased its dividend payout by 133% (!) in this past year alone. Similar to its other peers, Cisco also maintains a 23% gross operating margin.
The Fool thinks Tech
Rather than try and climb on the old hedge fund wagon, I recommend you take a look at the beaten down sector of technology companies. These are mega super safe companies trading for pennies on the dollar. I am willing to bet that any investment in these 3 companies will outperform 80% of hedge funds in 2013, without having to pay excessive fees to their managers.
shmulikarpf owns shares of Intel and Microsoft. The Motley Fool recommends Cisco Systems and Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel 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!