The following are some of the top buys of legendary hedge fund manager George Soros from the last quarter, according to Soros Fund Management's latest 13F filing. I see a good upside potential in these stocks in medium to long-term.
Delta Airlines Inc. (NYSE:DAL): Soros Fund Management bought 1,740,800 shares of Delta last quarter. It now holds 1,769,000 shares of the company. Delta Air Lines Inc. is the largest U.S. airline, operating hubs in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Memphis, and Salt Lake with a sizable presence in Los Angeles and New York City. Internationally, Delta is the largest transatlantic carrier and has also established a large Latin America presence this decade.
Delta's previous quarter was the most profitable December quarter in its history as most of its financial metrics exceeded the consensus estimates with a strong passenger unit revenue growth (PRASM) in December (13% y-y). Operating margins were at the high end of the guidance as stronger demand contributed to its earnings upside.
Delta's 1Q 2012 guidance suggests strong outlook as revenue trends are expected to remain robust with January's PRASM growth coming in at 15%. Delta's PRASM gains are expected to outpace the industry in 2012 as it gains market share in large corporate accounts due to cost convergence and fare unbundling. Demand driven fears have pulled down Delta's EV/EBITDA multiple during the last couple of quarters. I believe the current valuation levels are attractive and recommend a buy.
KeyCorp (NYSE:KEY): Soros Fund Management bought 1,890,700 shares of KeyCorp last quarter. It is a new position for the fund. KeyCorp operates as a holding company for KeyBank National Association that provides various banking services in the United States. It is based out of Cleveland, Ohio with branch network primarily in the Pac-NW, Mid-West and NE. The company's lending portfolio focuses primarily on C&I (33%), home equity (20%) and commercial mortgage (19%).
KeyCorp reported a good 4Q 2011 results beat driven by lower loan loss provisioning and higher fee income. More positives include strong Commercial and Industrial loan growth, NIM expansion and better than expected interest income. With its Tier 1 Capital Ratio at 11.28%, return of capital in the near term seems likely.
Looking ahead, management guided for a modest NIM improvement in 2012 driven by asset mix shift towards loans and continued cost improvement. While earnings potential in the near term is limited, the major catalyst for the price will be return of capital to the shareholders which is linked to the CCAR outcome, expected in March. KeyCorp is in a good position going into Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review and an increase in dividend and share repurchases are highly likely. Further it is one of the cheapest in its group, currently trading at a huge discount to its peers which makes me bullish on the stock.
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (NYSE:FCX): Soros Fund Management bought 370,300 shares of Freeport-McMoRan last quarter. It is a new position for the Fund. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. is a copper, gold and molybdenum mining company. Its portfolio of assets includes the Grasberg minerals district in Indonesia, mining operations in North and South America, and the Tenke Fungurume minerals district in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Freeport-McMoRan is likely to see a high top-line growth for next several years.
It has potential to grow copper and gold volumes by 35% and 50%, respectively by 2016. In the near term continued strength in underlying copper prices are likely to provide upside catalysts for the stock prices. At 8.40x forward PE stock doesn't look pricey. I recommend buying the stock given its long-term company-specific growth and near term upside from its copper exposure for which the market still remains tight.
Delphi Automotive Plc (NYSE:DLPH): Soros Fund Management bought 518,000 shares of Delphi last quarter. It is a new position for the Fund. Delphi was also a new purchase by other star hedge fund manager David Tepper whose Appaloosa Management purchased 229,236 shares of Delphi last quarter. Clearly, Delphi stock hasn't disappointed these top hedge fund managers returning over 45% YTD. The company reported excellent Q4 results with EPS of $0.84, well above consensus expectation of $0.55. The single biggest driver of the performance was improved gross margins, particularly in the Powertrain segment. Going forward, the company has excellent exposure to key secular trends like fuel efficiency, safety, in-vehicle technology and emerging markets. I would recommend buying the stock as these trends will continue to drive above-average growth and strong free cash flow for the company.
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC): Soros Fund Management bought 1,095,400 shares of Wells Fargo last quarter. It now holds 1,200,000 shares of the company. Wells Fargo was also one of the top buys of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.B) last quarter. Clearly when two of the smartest fund managers of all times are buying Wells Fargo there must be something very attractive fundamentally about the stock. I believe Wells Fargo provides one of the best risk adjusted return potential among the large cap banking stocks. Wells Fargo is one of the well-capitalized banks with a strong balance sheet. It certainly will not go out of the business if we see another slowdown or even a shock from the eurozone. On the other hand, it is likely to see a good upside as the broader economy recovers in the long-term. It also has a good potential to gain market share from relatively weaker banks. At a current valuation of less than 8.6x forward PE, it appears to be a very good investment for investors with low risk appetite who are looking to build a position in financial services sector.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.