By Matt Doiron
Hedge funds and other major investors file 13Fs with the SEC six to seven weeks after the end of a fiscal quarter; these filings disclose many of their long equity positions to the general public. Even with the inherent delay in these filings, they can still be used to inform investment decisions. We have found that the most popular small-cap stocks among hedge funds produce an average excess return of 18 percentage points per year (see which stocks we've included in this list in the last several months). In addition, many investors look to top managers' 13Fs for stock ideas for further research. Here are the five largest stock positions by market value, which billionaire Israel Englander's Millennium Management reported owning at the end of December (compare these with Millennium's previous top picks):
Englander more than doubled the size of the fund's position in NRG Energy Inc (NRG) to a total of 4.7 million shares. NRG is a $5.5 billion market cap electric utility operating primarily in the United States. While its beta is somewhat low in absolute terms, at 0.6, this is actually not particularly low for a utility and the dividend yield is not high either. Earnings have been somewhat varied in the past few quarters as well, with analyst expectations for 2013 implying a rather high current-year P/E. Recent quarterly reports have not shown good financial performance either, so we do not find NRG particularly appealing.
Millennium was also buying shares of Ocwen Financial Corporation (OCN) and closed December with 2.4 million shares in its portfolio. The mortgage loan servicing company has produced excellent returns for its shareholders in the last year, with the stock rising about 130%. It has been reporting very high growth on both top and bottom lines, and Wall Street analysts expect these high rates to continue: the current price is only 8 times consensus earnings for 2013. Ocwen was also one of billionaire Julian Robertson's favorite stocks at the end of the fourth quarter of 2012 (find Robertson's favorite stocks).
Edison International (EIX) was another electric utility that the fund liked during the fourth quarter of 2012. It is considerably larger than NRG in terms of market capitalization, with a market cap of over $15 billion. Edison's dividend yield is also higher - close to 3% - but even that should not be overly attractive to an income investor accustomed to higher yields from utilities. The current-year P/E here is 14, so the stock seems to be priced about right for a low-growth company. As a result it might be a better choice than NRG but there could be even more interesting utilities as well.
The fund also bought shares of electric utility NextEra Energy, Inc. (NEE), which used to be known as Florida Power & Light; Millennium owned 1.1 million shares according to the 13F. Nextera looks more like a conventional utility stock: its beta is low at 0.4 and its dividend yield is moderately above 3%. It therefore is at least worth considering for income or defensive investors. We'd also note that at its own market cap of $31 billion it is twice as large in those terms as Edison. At 16 times trailing earnings we wouldn't call it very overpriced either.
Englander and his team moved heavily into Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA) and owned 2.1 million shares at the beginning of January 2013. This made the pharmaceutical company - which is notable for its manufacture of generic pharmaceuticals - its fifth-largest holding by market value. Teva's earnings were down 37% last quarter compared with the fourth quarter of 2011, as sales declined and margins compressed. The sell-side expects the company to rebound and actually considers Teva a good value at this price; it trades at only 7 times forward earnings estimates. It might be worth considering.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.