Manning & Napier's Top Sells: 2 Potential Shorts, 1 Buy

Includes: FDX, GIS, MA, NSC, SCHW, UL, UPS, V
by: Rash Menaria

Manning & Napier Advisors, Inc. is a 100% independent employee-owned investment advisory firm founded by William Manning in 1970. The firm manages around $25 billion in the Manning & Napier series of mutual funds in addition to other funds and caters to individuals and institutions.

I discussed Manning & Napier Advisors' Top Buys in a previous article. In addition, it is also interesting to look at the top stocks where Manning and Napier's is selling its holdings. The following is a list of Manning and Napier's top seven sells by market value in the last quarter, as released in their most recent 13F filing with the SEC.



Shares Held - 09/30/2011

Shares Held - 12/31/2011

Change in shares

General Mills Inc.





Mastercard Incorporated





Unilever Plc





United Parcel Service Inc.





Visa Inc.





Norfolk Southern Corp.





Charles Schwab Corp.





Source: 13F filing

I believe that Unilever and UPS are good shorts at current levels. One stock where I don't agree with Manning & Napier Advisors and believe it is a buy instead of sell is General Mills.

Unilever is one of the world's leading fast moving consumer goods providers. They develop, market and sell products in variety of categories including detergents, deodorants, hair care, ice cream, frozen food, spreads and culinary. Some of their famous brands include Dove, Axe, Ben and Jerry's, Cif and Domestos.

I expect a pressure on Unilever's organic sales growth and in 2012 due to sharp decline in pricing. Weak consumer confidence in developing and emerging markets is likely to be another headwind for Unilever. Further, Unilever recently announced a shift towards 'core' EBIT, which includes recurrent restructuring costs. This will likely to lead to downward revisions of consensus sell side EPS estimates.

At current valuations, Unilever is trading at a premium to its relatively better peers. In my view this premium rating seems unsustainable in light of slowing organic growth, margin pressures and consensus EPS downgrades.

United Parcel Service Inc. is a package delivery company, providing transportation and logistics services in the United States and worldwide. It operates in three segments, U.S. Domestic Package, International Package and Supply Chain and Freight.

UPS is facing several near term headwinds. Domestic volume growth is getting adversely affected due to unfavorable economic condition. Cost pressures are expected to increase due to rising pension expenses and challenges in productivity realization. Despite significant volume growth in the international package business, recession in the eurozone and unfavorable exchange rates are likely to lead to slower revenue growth. All these factors translate into a lower EPS growth than consensus estimates.

I believe investors' expectations for UPS are quite high after the last quarter run up in the stock price and strong results by FedEx (NYSE:FDX). The current trading multiple for the stock is also on the higher side of the historical range. With a modest outlook in the medium term, cost headwinds in 2012 and macro uncertainty in Europe, the risk-reward for the stock doesn't seem to be attractive in the near term.

General Mills Inc. manufactures and markets branded consumer food products worldwide. It operates through 13 divisions and also supplies its products to retailers, food service and commercial baking industries. Its most popular brands include Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Colombo, Totinos, Jeno's, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Old El Paso and Wanchai Ferry.

GIS is seeing significant growth in international markets, with a Nielsen survey reporting strong sales and volume growth in Europe. Emerging markets also showed improved volume trends. In the US, the recent Cereal, Cookie and Cracker survey results were positive for GIS compared to its peers. Furthermore with recent pricing alignments, core brand growth across most categories and stronger pipeline of new products such as Peanut Butter Cheerios, Nature Valley Protein, Lactose free Yoplait, GIS will continue to gain the sales growth momentum.

As GIS' core business trends continue to improve, the international growth story remains on track and its Yoplait acquisition turns accretive, I believe the stock can see a significant upside in the medium to long term.

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