By Matt Doiron
We track 13F filings from hedge funds and other notable investors because even with the inherent delay in the information provided in these filings there are multiple ways for retail investors to use them. For example, even with the lag the most popular small-cap stocks among hedge funds, as determined by these filings, outperform the S&P 500 by an average of 18 percentage points per year (read more about small-cap stock picks). Investors can also use hedge funds' top picks as a source of initial ideas for further research, and we can refine these picks further by looking at a number of criteria including price-to-earnings multiples. Read on for our quick take on the five largest holdings from billionaire Leon Cooperman's Omega Advisors with both trailing and forward P/Es of 15 or lower (or see the full list of Cooperman's stock picks):
The fund owned close to 16 million shares of SLM Corp (SLM) at the end of the fourth quarter of 2012. The student loan services provider not only trades at 10 times trailing earnings but also offers at least some income potential with a dividend yield above 3%. In owning "Sallie Mae," Omega is on the same side as analyst expectations, which imply a forward P/E of 8 and a five-year PEG ratio of 0.7. Private student loans might not be the best industry for a company to be exposed to, possibly explaining why the market is hesitant to price Sallie Mae in line with expected growth.
Cooperman and his team added shares of Halliburton Company (HAL) between October and December, closing 2012 with 3.8 million shares in their portfolio. Halliburton was one of the most popular energy stocks among hedge funds in the quarter (find more energy stocks hedge funds loved). While the company's net income was down 26% last quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2011, the sell-side thinks that Halliburton will rebound. As a result, the forward P/E is only 11. Halliburton has not been performing as well as peer Schlumberger, but is cheaper enough that it may be a better value.
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX) is still down substantially from its levels before it announced two oil and gas acquisitions. Cooperman has expressed support for the deal, however, and initiated a position of 3.1 million shares last quarter. Freeport-McMoRan certainly qualifies for value status as it currently stands, with trailing and forward P/Es of 11 and 7 respectively, though we would note that because copper demand is such a strong indicator of the global macro situation the stock's beta is 2.2. While we don't like the company's move, it's possible that the stock price has sufficiently adjusted.
Omega reported a position of 4 million shares in XL Group plc (XL), an $8.8 billion market cap property and casualty insurance company. XL trades at a small discount to the book value of its equity in addition to a fairly moderate trailing earnings multiple of 11. Revenue was up 11% in its most recent quarter compared to the same period in the previous year, so there are some growth prospects for the company as well. It might be worth learning more about XL.
The fund had 2.9 million shares of Energy XXI Limited (EXXI) in its portfolio; Energy XXI is an oil and gas exploration and production company operating in Louisiana, Texas, and the Gulf of Mexico with a market capitalization of $2.4 billion. Many energy companies are trading at low earnings multiples, and Energy XXI is no exception given its trailing P/E of 11. At that price it would need only modest earnings growth to prove undervalued. However, net income fell 57% in the fourth quarter of 2012 versus a year earlier with sales falling as well. The stock is down 18% in the last year.
Disclosure: I am long HAL.