Billionaire Mario Gabelli's Top Stock Picks

 |  Includes: AXP, NFG, RHP, T, VIAB
by: Insider Monkey

By: Alex Oleinic

Institutional investors are required to file their 13F forms several weeks after the end of each calendar quarter. In these filings, investors, such as hedge funds, disclose the holdings in their equity portfolios. One of the funds that has recently filed its 13F form is Gamco Investors, managed by the legendary Mario Gabelli. Let's look at billionaire Gabelli's five largest holdings.

See the original 13F here, and it's important to remember that individual investors can successfully piggyback hedge funds and other prominent investors if they know where to look (discover the secrets of this strategy).

A top trio

According to the 13F, DIRECTV (DTV) is the most valuable equity holding in the fund's filing, as it was in the prior quarter. However, Gabelli has increased the position to 4,936,239 shares, from a total of 4,825,837 heading into 2013. The value of the stake increased to $279.3 million, versus $242.1 million in the prior quarter. Out of the funds we track, over 40 in addition to Gamco Investors were invested in DIRECTV at the end of 2012. Shares are up 30% year-to-date, and despite these gains, they're still trading at a meager forward P/E of just 10.0x. Warren Buffett's Berkshire is also among DTV investors (see Warren Buffett's top picks).

In American Express (NYSE:AXP), Mr. Gabelli's hedge fund disclosed a $247.9 million position, up from $211.1 million reported at the end of last year; the size of the fund's holding has increased to 3,674,555 shares versus 3,671,821 shares in the prior quarter. American Express has risen 22.4% YTD and is trading at a forward P/E of 13.3x. According to our database, American Express was in the equity portfolio of more than 50 hedge funds heading into 2013, so we'll continue to watch moving forward.

National Fuel Gas (NYSE:NFG) is the next on the list. Gamco Investors increased its position by 16,280 shares to 3,811,253 shares in the first quarter. The current value of the stake in National Fuel Gas amounts to $233.8 million, up from $192.4 million at the end of December 2012. For the second quarter of its fiscal 2013, National Fuel Gas reported earnings of $85.7 million ($1.02 per share), up from $0.81 per share posted a year ago. National Fuel Gas has a year-to-date return of 22.9%, and solid bottom line growth may be a major reason why Gamco is bullish.

The best of the rest

Gamco Investors also has a $221.1 million position in real estate investment trust Ryman Hospitality Properties (NYSE:RHP). The stake as of March 31, 2013 was 4,832,199 shares, falling from 5,011,500 shares, worth $192.7 million, in the prior quarter. According to our database, this REIT is loved by over 20 of the elite hedgies we track. For the first quarter of 2013, Ryman Hospitality Properties posted a surge in net income that amounted to $53.8 million, versus $6.0 million a year earlier. The company announced a first quarter dividend of $0.50 per share.

The fifth most valuable holding stated in the Gamco Investors 13F is Viacom (NASDAQ:VIAB). According to the filing, the fund disclosed a $217.5 million position, consisting of 3,449,242 Class A shares. In the previous 13F filing, the fund declared a holding of 3,369,637 shares worth $182.9 million. The year-to-date return of Viacom's stock is above 30%, and it is trading at a forward P/E of 12.6x. Our database shows that 48 other hedge funds were bullish on Viacom in the previous round of 13F filings.

Final thoughts

Mario Gabelli's Gamco Investors reported a total of 795 holdings in its Q1 equity portfolio, compared to 794 in the previous 13F. The value of the equity portfolio increased to $15.6 billion, from $13.6 billion.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Business relationship disclosure: This article is written by Insider Monkey's writer, Alex Oleinic, and edited by Jake Mann. They don't have any business relationships with any of the companies mentioned in this article and they didn't receive compensation (other than from Insider Monkey and Seeking Alpha) to write this article.