Invest for Kids may not be a conference you have heard of – it is held in Chicago and is only in its third year – but it is definitely one to watch. The event is a conference in which some of the top money managers in the US discuss their best investment ideas. Attendees pay hundreds of dollars for admission (usually between $500 and $1,000), with the proceeds going to charity.
At the event held in early November, there were roughly 800 attendees, with 10 of the brightest minds in finance presenting. Here are the stocks recommended by these fund managers.
Leon Cooperman, Omega Advisors: Leon Cooperman told attendees he does not see a double-dip recession on the horizon for the U.S. Instead, he thinks that while the financial markets may not be that great right now, stocks are the best place to be, quipping that stocks are the “best house in the financial neighborhood, though there are doubts as to whether it's a good neighborhood." Cooperman recommended several stocks, including Charming Shoppes (NASDAQ:CHRS), the company that owns popular plus-size brands Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug and Catherine’s Plus Sizes, explaining, “In 1986, the average woman’s size was 8. The average woman’s size today is 16.”
Michael Elrad, GEM Realty Capital: Elrad likes large shopping mall real estate investment trusts, explaining that the rents are stable and rising as more companies like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) realize “fancy showrooms in top malls are necessary to drive on-line sales.” Elrad likes mall REIT Macerich (NYSE:MAC). “The company sells at a 10% discount to larger competitors like Simon Property Group (NYSE:SPG), which in turn changes hands at a 20% discount to recent private-market sales transactions.”
Marc Lasry, Avenue Capital Management: Lasry likes General Motors (NYSE:GM). He pointed out that the company has an enterprise value to EBITDA of just 1, while selling at three times its EV/EBITDA. GM has also brought its post-bankruptcy debt down to $5 billion. Lasry thinks its share price is depressed by the stigma of its bankruptcy and the fact that the government owns roughly one-third of the company, but he thinks these issues will not matter with regards to the company’s growth in share price. Lasry thinks GM could triple in price over the long-term.
Michael Milken, The Milken Institute: Milken didn’t offer any specific investing ideas, instead offering a variety of observations. In a nutshell, he recommended investing in emerging economies like China, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and India, explaining that they have a rapidly growing middle class and strong population growth.
Richard Perry, Perry Partners: Perry likes Fannie Mae (OTCQB:FNMA) and Freddie Mac (OTCQB:FMCC). Perry thinks it is possible that these companies’ preferred shares could get back to par, for an increase of 1200%. While these companies could be completely snuffed out, Perry thinks that is unlikely, explaining that they are too integral to the U.S. housing market. Perry specifically likes the junior preferred stock.
Barry Rosenstein, JANA Partners: Rosenstein discussed McGraw Hill (MHP). He has been one of the activist investors pushing for the restructuring of the company. MHP recently announced it would be dividing into two divisions – McGraw Hill Markets, which would be focused on financial information, and McGraw Hill Education, which would concentrate on publishing educational materials (see the details here). Rosenstein thinks these measures are not sufficient. Instead, he thinks it needed to be broken up into four units.
Tom Russo, Gardner Russo & Gardner: Russo recommended investing in multinational companies based in Europe, like Nestle (OTCPK:NSRGY), Pernod-Ricard (RI.France) and SABMiller (SAB.UK). He explained that beacuse so much of these companies’ revenues come from outside the EU, any drop in the euro translates to gains for these companies.
Barry Sternlicht, Starwood Capital Group: Sternlicht thinks the US is poised for a housing boom. He explained that there are a lot of people who are living in tight quarters, after having moved in with friends or relatives to save money. He thinks these people will need homes of their own very soon. To this end, he recommends investors take a look at companies that will be called on to meet the increased demand, like the homebuilder Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL), with its strong cash position, decent land inventory and established market niche for homes $600,000 and up, and Lowe’s (NYSE:LOW), which he likes because it owns the land for more than 90% of its locations and is currently engaged in a stock buyback program. Bill Ackman is also bullish on LOW.
Sam Zell, Equity Group Investments: Zell explained that the working-age population relative to the number of retired persons is shrinking in most developed nations. Zell likes Brazil best among the emerging world. He explained that the country is self-sufficient in food, energy and water. He also noted that its middle class has risen from just 25% of the population to 65% and there is a strong free-market philosophy emerging in the country, even from Socialist leaders like former president Lula. Zell continued by saying that there is a large amount of building as the major cities in Brazil are expanding, even likening the increase to that in the US in the 1950s.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.