Mid-Year Review Of My Top 10 Stock Picks, Currently Up 16.6% In 2013

by: Chris Katje

As the calendar hits July, it's time to take a look back at my top ten stock picks for 2013. The time is also here to look ahead to what's in store for the ten stock selections going forward in the second half of 2013. The ten selections ended the second quarter up an average of 16.6%. Here's hoping a strong second half will help my selections best the 17.6% average gain from the 2012 picks.

Aflac (NYSE:AFL)

Start: $53.12

End: $58.82 (with dividends of $0.35, $0.35)

Return: +10.7%

Investors are underestimating the true earnings power of insurance giant Aflac. The company still trades at less than ten times estimated earnings per share of $6.18 for fiscal 2013. In fiscal 2014, Aflac is projecting earnings per share of $6.86 to $7.06. This is far ahead of analysts' targeted $6.53.

A 10% gain is hardly a start for this great company. Aflac is set to take off in the second half of the year. In the first quarter, Aflac bought back $150 million worth of its own stock (around 3 million shares). Aflac still has authorized to buy back another 19 million shares. The company's goal remains to buy back $400 to $600 million worth of its shares in the fiscal year.

Recommendation: Buy

Blackstone (NYSE:BX)

Start: $15.59

End: $21.78 (with dividends of $0.30, $0.42)

Return: +39.7%

Private equity company Blackstone has been my best pick so far in 2013. The company has been helped by strong IPOs of SeaWorld (NYSE:SEAS) and Pinnacle Foods (NYSE:PF). SeaWorld, which I recommended buying, priced shares at $27. This was the top end of the company's expected range and gave Blackstone a nice chunk of cash back from its original acquisition of the theme park operator. Blackstone still owns the majority of SeaWorld and can sell off its stake later. Another IPO driving Blackstone will be the upcoming public offering of Michael's, the arts and craft retailer owned by Blackstone and Bain Capital.

Blackstone is strengthening its portfolio of assets. Recently, the company launched an Asian property fund and also took an ownership stake in a Brazilian land developer. The company's energy funds have also provided a nice return. Blackstone recently reported its energy fund had returned 88%. The small $2.5 billion fund is being used as a test in the energy sector and will be increased soon.

Recommendation: Buy

Concur Technologies (NASDAQ:CNQR)

Start: $67.52

End: $81.38

Return: +20.5%

Concur shares have shot up from strong second quarter earnings. In the second quarter, Concur saw revenue increase 17.5% to $127.4 million. Earnings per share of $0.24 beat analysts' expectations by $0.08. The quarter was more importantly a strong booking period for the company with strength in government and commercial business signings. The company's recent launches of Concur Open Bookings and Concur App Center have also helped the company remain bullish on the rest of its fiscal year.

Shares of Concur Technologies could also have a great second half with potential acquisitions. The company recently priced $350 million in convertible senior notes. The move was done in anticipation of possible acquisitions. Concur recently acquired conTgo to strengthen its portfolio of travel related assets.

Recommendation: Hold

Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS)

Start: $38.55

End: $47.84 (with $0.20 dividend)

Return: +24.1%

I picked Discover due to its undervalued price to earnings ratio. Despite a 24% increase in the first half of the year, Discover shares trade at only ten times this year's expected earnings per share of $4.81. The company continues to be undervalued on a pure earnings perspective.

To go along with its low valuation, Discover has several exciting new opportunities going forward. The company has a new joint venture with eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and is increasing its presence in personal and home loans. Analysts are getting behind the company, as recently Discover saw several upgrades. This stock has plenty more upside and should trade closer to $55 by the end of 2013.

Recommendation: Buy

HEICO Corporation (NYSE:HEI)

Start: $44.76

End: $50.37

Return: +12.5%

After second quarter earnings, top ten pick HEICO hit new fifty two week highs. The company saw record sales, operating income, and net income for a six month period. Sales increased 10% to $237.7 million in the second quarter. The company saw strong sales across its flight support and electronic technologies group.

Several acquisitions were made by Heico in the first half of the year. The company continues to see strong sales across existing business lines. Consider buying Heico on a pullback.

Recommendation: Hold

Leapfrog (NYSE:LF)

Start: $8.63

End: $9.84

Return: +14.0%

Leapfrog may be my favorite pick for the rest of 2013. The company had a great Christmas in 2012 with several of the bestselling kids' products on the market. The company's Leap Pad 2 was a hot seller and the company saw its shares trade down as investors started to worry it would never duplicate its success. However, Leapfrog is just getting started when it comes to new gadgets.

The company announced its Leap Reader which saw pre-sales sell out on the company's website. The Leap Reader offers books, audio books, flash cards, and other learning tools to help children. Last week, Leapfrog also announced its new Leap Pad Ultra tablet for kids that will go on sale later in July. These two new products are the start of a new product pipeline that will power sales going forward.

I wrote about how Leapfrog shares are undervalued due to international expansion. This remains true once again. In the first quarter, overall net sales were up 15%. International sales saw great growth of 26% for the second quarter. These new products will once again further Leapfrog's growth in new markets. This is a stock that could double from today's price within a twelve month time.

Recommendation: Strong Buy

Onyx Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ONXX)

Start: $75.53

End: $86.82

Return: +15.0%

Shares of Onyx ended the mid-point of 2013 with a 15% gain. Despite this increase, shares actually touched $100 back in May. The good news for investors who opened a position in this company is $100 is going to be only the beginning. On Friday, news hit the market that Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) is attempting to buy Onyx for over $120 a share. Surprisingly, Onyx turned down the offer and is looking for better deals. Amgen sent a letter to the company saying it believed the two companies would be "very complementary" when combined.

In after-hours trading, Onyx shares shot up to $109, representing a gain of 44.3% from the start of 2013. The company has great products and a strong pipeline that will likely lead to a buyout. Two weeks ago, Jeffries analysts provided an update on key sales. Analysts then gave the company a buy rating with a $104 price target. I remain on board with Onyx, but think unfortunately that there isn't as much upside with Friday's large share increase.

Recommendation: Hold

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)

Start: $25.08

End: $28.49 (with dividends of $0.24, $0.24)

Return: +13.6%

Pfizer continues to sell off assets and give back to shareholders. Recently, the pharmaceutical giant sold off its remaining ownership stake of Zoetis (NYSE:ZTS). I called the move a rewarding one for shareholders, much to the criticism of readers. The sell off was oversubscribed as current shareholders recognized how good of a deal they were getting on Zoetis shares.

Pfizer will be using proceeds from the Zoetis sale to continue its aggressive share buybacks. Pfizer had $3.9 billion remaining on its current plan. Last week, Pfizer announced it was adding $10 billion to its share buyback plan. Shares remain undervalued.

Recommendation: Buy

Take Two Interactive (NASDAQ:TTWO)

Start: $11.01

End: $14.97

Return: +36.0%

Take Two shares have been the second best performer of the 2013 portfolio. The company continues to see shares move up in anticipation of the release of "Grand Theft Auto V". The game, which is 13 weeks away from release continues to see strong pre-orders. According to VGChartz, the game currently ranks number one (XBOX 360) and number two (Playstation 3) in pre-orders with 339,816 and 297,602 copies, respectively.

Another good sign for investors was Take Two's decision to refinance debt. The move was done to prevent shares from being converted and causing share dilution for current shareholders. On May 15th, I wrote that shares were still undervalued base on the potential future of "Grand Theft Auto V" and other games. Shares trade at less than seven times projected fiscal 2014 earnings per share of $2.34.

Recommendation: Buy

Titan Machinery (NASDAQ:TITN)

Start: $24.70

End: $19.63

Return: -20.5%

Titan Machinery was the sole loser in the first half of 2013. In fact, shares of this agricultural and construction equipment seller are now trading close to fifty two week lows. In my opinion, shares remain extremely undervalued. Shares trade at just over ten times current fiscal year earnings and less than ten times going forward.

In the first quarter, Titan Machinery beat analysts' targeted revenue and posted earnings per share that met targets. This came despite poor spring weather impacting sales. In the first quarter, revenue increased 4.7% to $442 million. Titan has plenty of growth ahead after acquiring two companies and entering the Ukraine market. At the end of the first quarter, Titan had 106 North American and 14 European branches. Buy on the current weakness.

Recommendation: Buy

The first half of the year saw nine winners and one loser. The overall gain of 16% is in line with previous years and I believe sets up well for the second half. Obviously, Onyx Pharmaceuticals' possible acquisition will have a strong impact on where the top ten finish. I also expect several of the stocks, like Leapfrog, Aflac, and Titan International to see double digit gains in the second half of the year. If you haven't taken a look at these ten selections, it's not too late.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in LF, TITN over the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

About this article:

Author payment: $35 + $0.01/page view. Authors of PRO articles receive a minimum guaranteed payment of $150-500. Become a contributor »
Problem with this article? Please tell us. Disagree with this article? .