Gamco Investors, managed by billionaire Mario Gabelli, has filed its 13F for the fourth quarter of 2012. This round of 13F filings, due this week, disclose the size of many equity positions held by a hedge fund or other major investor at the end of December. Even though the information is several weeks old, we have found that it is still possible to develop profitable investment strategies out of 13Fs. Our research has shown that the most popular small-cap stocks among hedge funds outperformed the S&P 500 by 18 percentage points per year (see the full details on the small cap investing strategy). We also think it can be helpful to review a notable investor's top stock picks for ideas that can then be researched further if they are of interest. Here are our thoughts on five of Gamco's largest holdings by equity value as of the beginning of 2013:
Gabelli's top pick was DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV), with the 13F disclosing a position of 4.8 million shares. At a market capitalization of $31 billion, DirecTV currently trades at 13 times trailing earnings. Wall Street analysts expect moderate earnings growth this year and so the current-year P/E multiple is 10; continued growth estimates place the five-year PEG ratio at 0.7. While we wouldn't take analyst estimates at face value these metrics are good enough to make the company worth a look in our view. Warren Buffett likes DirecTV. Berkshire Hathaway had over $1.5 billion invested in at as of the end of September (see Buffett's stock picks).
The billionaire also liked American Express Company (NYSE:AXP), reporting ownership of 3.7 million shares. American Express is also a Buffett favorite, and billionaire Ken Fisher's Fisher Asset Management is a major shareholder as well (find Fisher's favorite stocks). The company's earnings were down sharply last quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2011 on lower margins. At a trailing P/E of 16 we don't think that American Express is particularly attractive given its recent struggles, and despite the impressive roster of investors we would avoid it.
Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc. (NYSE:RHP) was another of Gabelli's top picks. Ryman is a lodging and entertainment company which operates a number of resorts and convention centers as well as Nashville-area attractions. The most recent data shows that over 40% of the outstanding shares are held short, and the stock is very responsive to movements in the broader markets with a beta of 2.1. Paulson & Co., managed by billionaire John Paulson, owned 3.8 million shares at the end of the third quarter. We don't think that it is a good value.
Gabelli reported a position of 3.8 million shares in National Fuel Gas Co. (NYSE:NFG), a $4.9 billion market cap company involved in the production and transportation of natural gas as well as its provision as a utility. Dividend yields are not particularly high for a utility, under 3%, and while sales and net income have been up moderately the earnings multiples are above 20. We would be hesitant to buy the stock at that price, particularly since the utility business at least would be expected to see little growth going forward.
Viacom, Inc. (NASDAQ:VIAB) rounded out Gamco's top five picks. Viacom looks cheap with trailing and forward P/Es of 14 and 11, respectively. While revenue was down in its most recent quarter compared to the same period in the previous fiscal year, earnings were up considerably in percentage terms and given the valuation metrics it might be worth looking into if the fall on the top line might be a temporary setback. Tiger Cub Andreas Halvorsen's Viking Global initiated a position of 2.6 million shares in Viacom between July and September of 2012.